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  1. the blackout map misses one of the most nonsensical territory areas where San Francisco/Oakland blackout are extends all the way across the Pacific to Hawaii.

    Comment by Anthony — May 14, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

  2. Those poor souls in Iowa….

    Comment by jojo — May 14, 2013 @ 1:18 pm

  3. Just as ridiculous as having Blue Jays games blacked out all across Canada.

    Comment by omar little — May 14, 2013 @ 1:18 pm

  4. Many thanks to Wendy and fangraphs for covering this type of story. Let’s hope this passes.

    Comment by okra — May 14, 2013 @ 1:22 pm

  5. McCain doing something right for once. Gotta love it.

    Comment by Steve — May 14, 2013 @ 1:37 pm

  6. I like the “No data available” area of Florida.

    Comment by Drakos — May 14, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

  7. No way will ala carte pricing lead to lower average bills; instead of paying $45/month for 100 channels, you’ll pay $45/month and get 10 channels. Yes, some people don’t want ESPN, but others don’t want Disney, Food Network, and Lifetime. Today, Disney watchers subsidize ESPN watchers and vice versa (many viewers place a value lower than $4.50 on ESPN and many viewers place a value of $0.00 on Disney, but both pay). In aggregate, though, both consumers value their package of programming at $45/month (or higher); if they didn’t, they wouldn’t subscribe. The price for both Disney and ESPN will rise, though ESPN’s will probably rise less since it is currently being priced more closely to the value derived by the marginal consumer. The average viewer values Disney at a lower price; many viewers, though, would place a very high value on Disney, and these viewers will then become the marginal subscriber, bidding up the price but significantly lowering the quantity.

    Comment by Mitch — May 14, 2013 @ 1:51 pm

  8. Wendy, thanks for following up on this story – even more thoroughly than I could have asked for. Pretty fascinating stuff.

    I’m personally excited by the idea of a la carte, since I watch only approx. 10 channels, but can see some of the downsides implied (e.g. rising costs of each individual channel) and don’t believe it stands a chance of passing.

    Comment by Well-Beered Englishman — May 14, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

  9. I was recently staying in southeastern New Mexico on business, and when I opened up the iPad to watch some games, I was amazed to find that the D-Backs, Rockies, Rangers and Astros were all blacked out there, despite the fact that you can only get the D-Backs games on local television (but not in my hotel). So of the the 15 games on that night, I couldn’t get 4 of them (none of those teams were playing each other). That region is currently flooded with oil field workers from Texas, and none of them can get the Rangers or Astros on TV or over the internet (at least not legally). That’s terrible for baseball. But there doesn’t seem to be enough of a financial incentive to change it.

    Comment by Adam M — May 14, 2013 @ 1:58 pm

  10. I tend to agree, but it depends on the user. For some users who don’t like sports at all, I think their bill could be a lot less. If you just wanted your local channels and some of the more basic cable entertainment or educational channels, it would be less.

    Comment by Adam M — May 14, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

  11. While the average cost per channel may go up the overall bill will go down for many. Speaking for myself, I only ever watch 4-5 of the 100 or so channels that I get. This would allow me to lower my overall bill by just paying for those 5 channels. Networks would still be able to offer the bundles to consumers to encourage them to order all the channels they offer. For example, in a la carte maybe ESPN costs $6.50 and Disney costs $2.50. But Disney offers a bundle to buy both channels for $7. This would encourage consumers to buy the extra channel even if they would rarely watch it. Consumers who really want ESPN may be willing to pay the extra .50 for Disney. Personally I never watch ESPN so I would probably benefit from not having to pay the high fees for the channel.

    Comment by Dave — May 14, 2013 @ 2:07 pm

  12. I’m an Iowa resident so I feel this on a daily basis. We are blacked out from Cubs, White Sox, Cardinals, Royals, Twins, and Brewers. The local cable company only offers Fox Sports Midwest and WGN so I can only watch Cardinals and a select few Cubs and White Sox games. I have no ability to watch the Twins, Royals, or Brewers. Not to mention the fact that Minneapolis is a good 4 hours away, Milwaukee is 6 hours away, and KC is 3 hours away. It’s not like I can just get in the car and go see a game since it isn’t on TV.

    Comment by Dave — May 14, 2013 @ 2:12 pm

  13. And some people only watch their local baseball team and virtually no other sports.

    There’s no reason for the cable industry to exist anymore. All content providers could sell their content to individuals over the Internet. All consumers should ever need is an ISP and they can make their own deals with content providers. If someone in Houston wants to watch the Astros, they should be able to just pay the Astros. Likewise, if someone else in Houston just wants to watch Game of Thrones and doesn’t like baseball, they should be able to just by HBO without buying any sports channels.

    Comment by cass — May 14, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

  14. Even for people who live right next to a ballpark, half the games are played in other cities!

    Comment by cass — May 14, 2013 @ 2:15 pm

  15. If ala carte programing is offered at the consumer level then it will probably result in higher bills and less options. Some cable networks will cease to exist. I wonder how this will end up. Will cost for equipment be higher? Will cable have an option say pick ten channels for 40 bucks? If so will people go to a combination over the air/cable for TV? If there is an option of pick ten channels for cable you can bet that ESPN will not be one of them.
    Also most people rent DVRs from the cable company or pay for a subscription service. It is rare for people to use a computer or DVD burner or standalone DVR for recording shows. I find it amazing that we used to have piles of VHS tapes but now we have moved to a better technology that technology has become in many ways more expensive and has many disadvantages. There are many advantages as well but the monthly fee is the worst part.

    All this shows that the cost of watching will go up. Still I expect at some point the networks will open up the blackouts to include a paying option (it will not be cheap) for watching blacked out teams on If ala carte were to become a thing I bet the option to buy on would be more than the cost of the channel.

    There are so many issues with this but the main thing to remember is that no matter what it will not get cheaper, technology and entertainment historically don’t get cheaper and the cable companies and networks will find a way to make it cost.

    Comment by Ron — May 14, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

  16. If you change your IP Address/Proxy settings to one in Germany or any other country without blackouts you can watch any game you want.

    Comment by Blackouts suck — May 14, 2013 @ 2:32 pm

  17. While using MLB.TV, I should add

    Comment by Blackouts suck — May 14, 2013 @ 2:32 pm

  18. Simple solution: Hawaiians could just root for the Dodgers :)

    Comment by atoms — May 14, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

  19. In Oregon, I have no fewer than four teams blacked out on To me, that’s just ludicrous. The worst part of that is that, being on the West Coast and working a 50-hour week, I typically can’t catch games that start before 7pm PST. The blackout rules severely inhibit my ability to enjoy the sport.

    Comment by Lovetron — May 14, 2013 @ 3:48 pm

  20. You go tell the alligators they can’t watch whatever baseball game they want. I’ll watch from over here.

    Comment by Tim — May 14, 2013 @ 5:12 pm

  21. I’d love to see an end to NFL and MLB blackouts!

    Comment by Ruki Motomiya — May 14, 2013 @ 5:32 pm

  22. This brings us to the point of corporations owning the infrastructure to carry the data. Since they own it, and have invested significantly in it in the past, companies like AT&T and Verizon dont want to stop using their telephone/cable lines (hence double and triple play deals) if the infrastructure was publicly owned (like railroads) then there would be some measure to make it more efficient (i.e. not having separate track systems for passenger rail and freight) and all data transmission would be moved to the fastest possible system. The government could then lease the infrastructure to the corporations so they didn’t have to deal with providing service, and voila, we all have 100GB internet and can watch whatever shows we want, whenever we want. Only drawback is the government would still be responsible for fixing the lines, and while they are good at conducting great works, they are not so good at keeping them going… It also wouldn’t be great for telecom companies…

    Comment by David — May 14, 2013 @ 6:58 pm

  23. Agreed that Hawaii is one of the most nonsensical territory areas. But it’s even worse than that. They consider ALL west coast games as being in the Hawaii territory. So no Mariners, Oakland, San Francisco, Dodgers, LAA, or Padres home games. Thankfully I checked my zip code with MLB before spending $100 on an subscription that would have been pretty spotty.

    If you have cable you do get Dodgers and LAA games via Fox Sports, so it’s something at least.

    I understand the original spirit of the legislation, trying to get fans to go to games. But sheesh 2500 miles over open ocean is a bit far (and difficult) to drive for a baseball game =).

    Comment by Dan — May 14, 2013 @ 7:47 pm

  24. A premium subscription plus a high speed VPN provider that can place you out of the country to the IP filter rules and you’re golden – watch the games whenever you want.

    $130 for the yearly subscription and about $5 a month for VPN service like unblock-us provides. It works on my laptop and on the Roku when properly set up. Mobile is harder, so you may have to stick to devices without a network carrier signal and GPS.

    Comment by fergie348 — May 14, 2013 @ 8:04 pm

  25. Ah, the joy of living outside US- in Australia- I get to watch every game I want. Though it does make it hard to actually go see a game live at the stadium.

    Comment by Maverick Squad — May 14, 2013 @ 8:04 pm

  26. That is absurd. I understand the difficulty in getting changes made through Congress, but hopefully they can at least find a way to make the blackouts more local to the stadium. It makes no sense to black out any part of the country (Hawaii, northern Maine, the giant black hole of non-baseball covering Idaho/Utah/Nevada/Oregon/Montana) where it’s completely impractical to travel to a baseball game.

    Do they black out Alaska when the Mariners or Blue Jays don’t sell out, too??

    Comment by Jay29 — May 14, 2013 @ 9:14 pm

  27. Wow, blacked out for 5 teams. That’s what they get for being *only ~300 miles* from four major cities.

    “C’mon, kids, the Cardinals are blacked out tonight. It’s only a 5 and a half hour drive to Busch. We can be there in time for the 7th inning stretch, but only if you skip band practice, Suzie.”

    Comment by Jay29 — May 14, 2013 @ 9:20 pm

  28. Doing something right? What? Making a “federal case” out of this is doing something right? Doesn’t the legislative branch have more important things to tackle like, I don’t know, repealing stupid laws that would best be stupid at a more local level of government? If the stadium wasn’t funded with federal money, the house and Senate have no business getting involved.

    Now, McCain as a presidential candidate in 2007 or 2008 told a Michigan crowd that the automotive jobs that had been lost – lost to right-to-work states – were not coming back. Not only was that the right thing to do, it took a lot of balls to say it. He was right then and maybe a couple of other times, too. This wasn’t one of those times.

    Comment by lowcountryjoe — May 14, 2013 @ 9:47 pm

  29. Seconded. When I was actually in the UK, I got to enjoy any game – provided it was on a screen, and I wasn’t sleeping during it.

    Comment by Well-Beered Englishman — May 14, 2013 @ 11:36 pm

  30. To match Dan’s Hawaiian lament above (and now I see, echo Dave’s below): I live in eastern Iowa and last year went from being blacked out for four teams on to six: Royals, Twins, ChiSox, Cubs, Cards, & Brewers. The closest of these stadiums is 3.5 hrs away; several are 6 hrs away. I can’t afford to go more than once or twice a year anyway. Pretty absurd that on an average night, 40% of mlb games are blacked out.

    Comment by Iowa Braves — May 15, 2013 @ 12:51 am

  31. This whole situations seems like a situation where government can’t get out of it’s own way. McCain is pushing a law to repeal an FCC rule that’s a broad application of a 50 year old law. Really, I think the responsibility should, to some degree, fall on the states that are funding the stadiums. If state tax dollars are used to fund a stadium, games should not be blacked out in the state. As an aside, how does decide what region I’m in? If it’s based on my IP, can I go through a VNC out of the country? Or, do they base it on my billing address?

    Comment by Bill — May 15, 2013 @ 7:43 am

  32. This is standard McCain. Fight for something that sounds good but in the end is completely worthless and isn’t something a US Senator should be wasting his time with. It is all about power with these people.

    Comment by Jordan — May 15, 2013 @ 8:45 am

  33. That’s not why the blackout exists. It exists to protect the cable companies broadcasting “local” games. Nothing at all to do with attendance. The teams like it because they can get more money for their “local” tv rights.

    Comment by cass — May 15, 2013 @ 10:16 am

  34. You really have no clue what you are talking about. Almost every sentence contained an error of some kind.

    Comment by Jason — May 15, 2013 @ 1:27 pm

  35. Buffalo is blacked out for the Pirates, Indians, Jays, Yanks, and Mets. Two of those teams are eight hours away. I could understand a Jays blackout, I guess; that’s 80 minutes. Maybe even Cleveland (3 hours). I could drive to either of those cities for a day game and return the same day if I wanted to. But if teams that are 4-5 hours (Pirates) or 8 hours (Yanks, Mets) away can designate Buffalo as part of their protected markets, why not LA or Seattle? The MLB rules are byzantine and should just be gone.

    Comment by zzz — May 16, 2013 @ 8:12 am

  36. Would you happen to know how to set it up on the Roku? I’ve got rid of cable and purchased a Roku and only to find out my Reds games are still blacked out…

    Comment by Keith — May 19, 2013 @ 1:30 pm

  37. It’s absurd that there are any blackouts AT ALL when you pay for the Extra Innings or package. Just rebroadcast whatever the local feed is; people are willing to pay for it. It’s one of the stupidest examples of ignoring business economics 101: never block a transaction between two willing participants.

    Comment by Brad — June 9, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

  38. time has come to do something,fact is talk is cheap start here

    Comment by cr — July 20, 2013 @ 7:08 pm

  39. is the biggest ripoff they dont tell you that ALL your teams games are blacked out.unless you live 1000 miles away and more in hawaii’s case!!!!!!!!!!

    Comment by cr — July 20, 2013 @ 7:30 pm

  40. I live in Iowa and have the MLBtv pacakage. I’m a Red Sox fan, but I have SIX teams blacked out: White Sox, Cubs, Cards, Royals, Twins and Brewers.

    We don’t play these teams too often, but still…

    Comment by Tom — August 14, 2013 @ 11:30 am

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