Top of the 2nd, the Mets broadcast abruptly went to commercial. The first thing I thought, what did Ron Darling touch? The second thing I thought, Thank God! Chris Young totally does not have his stuff tonight. Finally, my ESPN ScoreCenter app informed me it was a blackout.
That got me thinking about other famous blackouts around Major League Baseball. Major League Baseball did not grow into an eight billion dollar business over the last two decades without cracking some serious eggs. There’s Iowa and Las Vegas. There’s North Carolina and all of Hawaii. Don’t forget Buffalo, and don’t get me started on Canada. Fans who want to watch a ballgame can’t. They are blacked out.
What kind of blackout did you think I was going to talk about?
Is this the price fans of the National Pastime have to pay as baseball reaps the profits of their television agreements? I know it’s hard to believe, especially for folks like myself. I live in the northeast, which has frankly never met a regional sports channel it didn’t like.
Come on! It’s 2012. Can’t we watch anything we want anywhere we want on any device we want at any time we want? Apparently, that doesn’t exactly hold true for Major League Baseball.
Television-based revenue has become baseball’s lifeblood. It brings in far more than ticket sales, merchandising, concessions and sponsorships. Live sports programming is DVR-proof and immensely valuable to advertisers. Television rights essentially saved the bankrupt Los Angeles Dodgers. They nabbed $2.15 billion when sold in April.
If you live in Iowa, you can’t see the Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Royals, Twins or White Sox. I was in Italy once and watched a Cubs game on television. Vegas? Forget about rooting for the A’s, Angels, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants or Padres, because you aren’t going to see them on television.
Baseball continues to black out televised games in areas like these because of territorial-rights. Please note. These rules were conceived when television was black and white. People actually watched commercials back then.
So why does baseball do it? They are protecting relationships with the regional sports networks that are paying billions of dollars for the exclusive rights to broadcast games in demarcated territories. This business deal enriches Major League Baseball, the networks and cable companies while passing on every last dime to fans. In my neck of the woods, we saw this during the basketball season. Time Warner cable pulled MSG, blacking out most Knicks fans in the midst of “Linsanity.”
So, why are Bud Selig and Major League Baseball willing to pay a premium to keep blackouts intact? When did leaving tens of millions unable to see their favorite team play make good business sense? The Associated Press says that preying on the very consumer who wants to buy your product seems like the antithesis of good business sense. Yet baseball has done nothing to change its tactics.
Commissioner Bud Selig commented: “We’ll figure it out. … We have to do something about it.” That was six years ago.
The lights are back on and the game has resumed. The Mets are now losing 5 to nothing. Geez. I wonder what the good folks of Iowa are doing right now.