MLB Strongly Defends Local Broadcast Territories In Court

Major League Baseball asked a federal court this week to toss out claims by several fans that the league’s broadcast territories violate antitrust laws. The fans claim that MLB’s divvying up of the United States and Canada into exclusive broadcast markets means that regional sports networks need not compete with each other to telecast a team’s games in the local market. Plaintiffs also allege that MLB has a monopoly over broadcast packages of out-of-market games through Extra Innings and MLB.tv, and that MLB uses that monopoly for anti-competitive purposes by imposing blackouts on local games. My initial post explaining the lawsuit is here.

This week, MLB filed a motion for summary judgment with U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin, who is presiding over the case in Manhattan. Under federal procedure rules, a party can file a summary judgment motion to argue that under a set of undisputed facts, the other side’s claims (or defenses) are legally untenable, and therefore a trial on those claims (or defenses ) is unnecessary. You can read a copy of the motion here.  

Note that several parts of the motion are redacted, which means they refer to MLB’s confidential business information. From what I can discern, most of the redactions relate to MLB’s national TV contracts and what would happen to those contracts should the plaintiffs succeed in blowing up the exclusive local markets. The evidence in support of the motion — documents and pre-trial testimony — is even more off limits, with much of it filed under seal. That means only court and the attorneys have access to it. The public does not.

Still, even with the redactions and the filings under seal, MLB’s position is clear.

At it’s core, MLB’s argument comes down to this: the territorial video rights structure among the 30 MLB teams, coupled with the explosive growth in live video streaming, means that virtually all fans can watch virtually all 2,400 MLB games through a combination of their regional sports network, nationally-televised games, and either Extra Innings or MLB.tv. That structure is reasonable, pro-fan, and pro-competition and to suggest otherwise is absurd.

As a legal matter, MLB argues first that plaintiffs claims are barred because federal antitrust laws do not apply to claims involving MLB’s structure and territoriality (this is known colloquially as MLB’s antitrust exemption). We’ve seen this argument succeed many times, most recently in the federal lawsuit by the city of San Jose against MLB over the league’s failure to approve the Oakland’s plan to move to San Jose. (That case is now on appeal.) Ironically, the A’s are a named defendant in this lawsuit, and filed papers “joining” MLB’s summary judgment motion. In other words, the A’s are arguing to the federal court in New York that issues relating to MLB’s territorial structure fall squarely within the antitrust exemption, while the team’s putative partner for a new ballpark — San Jose — is arguing in California that the antitrust exemption is invalid and doesn’t apply.

But the league doesn’t rely just on the antitrust exemption. Instead, it argues that even if the video rights structure is examined under the antitrust law’s rule of reason, it more than passes muster. The league lays out the following facts:

  • Under cross-license agreements among the 30 teams, each home and each visiting team has the right to telecast each game through its regional sports network, save for those games broadcast exclusively by the national TV networks.
  • The home team doesn’t charge a fee to the visiting team for the broadcast rights, because the home team knows that only its RSN can broadcast the game in the local market.
  • Local telecasts are critical to connecting with and growing the fan base and promoting the team’s brand. That, in turn, promotes competitive balance.

MLB posits that if the court were to find that the league’s video rights structure violated antitrust laws, the plaintiffs wouldn’t necessarily be any closer to their stated goals of having access to any game, any time, through any medium. According to motion, plaintiffs put forth no evidence showing that teams would compete with each other to broadcast games in each other’s markets or that, absent cooperation among the 30 teams, the Extra Innings and MLB.tv packages wouldn’t be economically feasible.

Noticeably absent in MLB’s motion is any discussion of the breadth of each team’s broadcast markets or the fact that many broadcast markets overlap–factors which lead to significant blackouts in areas without one main local MLB team. Iowa, for example, doesn’t have its own MLB team but is within the broadcast territory for the Cubs, Brewers, Royals, Twins, Cardinals, and White Sox. That means fans in Iowa can’t watch those six teams on MLB.tv or Extra Innings because those games are considered “in-market” in Iowa. The total lack of attention to blackouts in MLB’s motion is quite curious, give that regional blackouts were an impetus for the lawsuit in the first place.

We’ll learn more about the shape of these arguments and counterarguments after the plaintiffs file their opposition brief in the next week or so. I expect plaintiffs to come forward with sworn declarations and testimony of various experts in the fields of economics and telecommunications to poke holes in MLB’s claim that the current video rights structure is pro-competitive. I also expect a renewed focus on the overlapping broadcast territories and resulting regional blackouts.

Remember, the plaintiffs’ goal right now is to defeat this motion and get to trial. To do that, they’ll have to show the judge that evidence the current video rights structure isn’t as reasonable as MLB portrays, and that a jury must hear and weigh the evidence.




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Wendy's baseball writing has also been published by Sports on Earth. ESPN.com, SB Nation, The Score, Bay Area Sports Guy, The Classical and San Francisco Magazine. Wendy practiced law for 18 years before beginning her writing career. You can find her work at wendythurm.pressfolios.com and follow her on Twitter @hangingsliders.


72 Responses to “MLB Strongly Defends Local Broadcast Territories In Court”

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  1. Mike Green says:

    Fascinating. Thank you for this.

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  2. Steven says:

    “virtually all fans can watch virtually all 2,400 MLB games” Evidently they have never been to Iowa…

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    • Yeah, I’m not sure how MLB can prove this.

      There’s a lot of areas where fans are blacked out from 3-4 teams even though they might only get 1 or 2 on TV.

      A good example in Austin is that you can’t get Houston Astros games unless you have Comcast. The problem is that Comcast doesn’t provide service for a good portion of Austin (I don’t get it where I live now). So if you’re an Astros fan living in Austin and you happen to live in a place that doesn’t offer Xfinity, then too damn bad. Hell, a good portion of Houston doesn’t get Comcast service. That alone should tell you how stupid the current black out rules are. It’s dependent upon cable companies and their exclusivity deals with networks.

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      • ithrowplastic says:

        “There’s a lot of areas where fans are blacked out from 3-4 teams even though they might only get 1 or 2 on TV.”
        Connecticut for example. Had to drop cable to save money, so I stream everything and am blacked out of the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets games.

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        • vivalajeter says:

          But if you signed up for cable, you can see all three teams? If so, that’s not quite as bad. I can see their incentive for getting people to pay for cable.

          In moved to Charlotte recently, and we’re blocked out of Braves, Reds, Nats and O’s games. I have Time Warner and have no access to Nats/O’s games. So I pay $140/month for cable/internet, and I still can’t see those games. The only alternative is DirecTV, but that’s not an option for some people.

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      • Wendy Thurm says:

        MLB doesn’t have to prove this. The plaintiffs have the burden to show that what MLB is doing violates federal antitrust law — i.e. is anticompetitive and unreasonable.

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        • Andy says:

          Hey Wendy,

          How does one go about trying to make this right? I think someone in Iowa would have the best case because they are restricted from watching so many teams and yet have very limited access to more than one team network via cable.

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    • MDL says:

      This was addressed in the article.

      Iowa, for example, doesn’t have its own MLB team but is within the broadcast territory for the Cubs, Brewers, Royals, Twins, Cardinals, and White Sox. That means fans in Iowa can’t watch those six teams on MLB.tv or Extra Innings because those games are considered “in-market” in Iowa.

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      • MLB Showdown Successor says:

        MDL – The point is that not necessarily all 6 of those teams are on channels that *everyone* in Iowa has.

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        • David says:

          Exactly. I’m an Iowa resident and out local cable company only carries Fox Sports Midwest. That means I have zero access to Royals, Twins, Brewers, and any non WGN Cubs and White Sox games. Heck I could be blacked out from 20% of MLB games if all 6 teams play out of market teams.

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      • joser says:

        I think Steven was offering a response to MLB’s claim (ie, a vernacular form of what the plaintiff’s consul will argue in opposition to the motion for summary judgement)

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        • Andy says:

          Actually it’s closer to 40%, if each team is playing someone out of the blackout restrictions then you aren’t able to watch 12 of the 30 teams because of the restrictions. Although you usually get to watch 2 of the teams on whichever cable network is available in your part of iowa.

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    • Scott says:

      Or Oklahoma! Royals, Cardinals, Rangers, Astros….I think the heart of this is that sports may be the only thing keeping cable TV in business. In the internet age you don’t need to pay for cable TV to watch your favorite shows. As long as you don’t mind waiting until they hit video or netflix all you need is an internet connection. Sports….not so much….unless you subscribe to the correct cable provider (as long as they off their service where you live) you can’t watch your favorite “in market” team. I would think that MLB would want its product being watched by as many people as possible and the way it’s done now does not make that possible.

      I don’t buy the arguemnt that this to protect local advertisers. Surely there has to be some way to put the comcast Houston broadcast on the mlb.tv feed complete with local commercials. The problem here is that you then don’t need to pay comcast for 100 channels of bullshit that you otherwisde don’t want!

      That’s why I say that IMO this is about keeping calbe companies alive. On a side not I’ve often wondered why the NFL limits its Sunday ticke to only Directv. Seems like they could make more money off of it if it was offered on UVerse, Comcast, Cox, etc….

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    • Andy says:

      I’m in Storm Lake, Iowa and am blacked out from Twins, Royals, Cardinals, Brewers, White Sox and Cubs games. However, only Twins games are offered on cable. This means that on any given night, if these teams aren’t playing each other, it is impossible for me to watch 5 MLB games meaning I can’t watch 10 MLB teams. This is 1/3 of all games in any given night. Please tell me how MLB can justify that. I totally understand why they would black out Twins games, MLB prefers I watch on cable and be forced to watch the ads that support the broadcast financially. It almost seems as if MLB is forcing me to be a Twins fan.

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  3. bertrecords says:

    By allowing just one broadcast with announcers that are indirect and direct employees of the team, many broadcasts are poor quality. If the legal system wrested back live media rights to actual media, the public would benefit. Was there a time when multiple radio broadcasts covered teams? Historically, when and under what legal pretext did that change?

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    • joser says:

      But “quality” of the broadcast (which is a slippery thing) isn’t at question here, and so would be considered irrelevant. As to your historical question, originally there was some opposition by team owners to the idea of radio (and later TV) broadcasts, thinking that fans wouldn’t come out to the game if they could sit at home and get it for free. Money talks, however, and I think the practice of “exclusive broadcast partner” took hold pretty quickly.

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      • Zen Madman says:

        It might not be the question at hand, but perhaps it should be. How much better would broadcasts be if anyone could simulcast their own audio over a generic video feed?

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        • joser says:

          It would be awesomely entertaining, but while I am not a lawyer I don’t think there’s any basis in law to “wrest back” the live media rights: the games take place in what are private facilities (regardless of whatever public money might have paid for them — a whole other area of MLB fraud and mendacity) so the permission to tape the goings-on resides with the owners, and subject to whatever T&C they want to impose. Finding a way to break that would result in all sorts of potential unintended consequences for filming in private venues far outside baseball.

          Not to mention the “damage to the brand” that MLB would argue would result from the freelance commentaries (at least the ones likely to be the most popular and entertaining).

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    • Fart Proudly says:

      There were a few occaisons when two radio stations had deals with teams, but as I recall, only one did broadcast a particular game. This stuff relates to the description of the game, which the home team (and MLB) own — that was settled long ago when fantasy baseball was running play-by-play over dialup. It was ruled that a single in the game was a fact (i.e. not owned by the team) and the announcer describing it as “off the shortstops glove and into shallow left” was the property of the team. This history is usually discussed in any fantasy baseball book that covers back to the strato-matic era.

      The territories for the teams probably relate back to the radio coverage areas, and the large areas (beyond state boundaries) are due to team deals with ‘clear channel’ AM radio stations. Since KNBR in SF can be heard in Las Vegas at night (or used to be), Vegas is in the Giants territory. The concepts behind AM ‘clear channel’ have faded with time and the rise of the internet, so I wonder if an attack on this basis could undermine the extensive broadcast territories.

      I wonder what the plantiffs expect to get, so far, while I’ve been blocked out of watching games on DirecTV (and twice for a puzzling reason), MLB.tv has left me watch everything that I have tried. Then there is a question of ‘viewing’ versus ‘listening’. MLB radio never has a blackout.

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  4. MLB Showdown Successor says:

    It doesn’t really make any sense to me why I can’t watch (in my case) the Tigers on MLB.TV when I pay for it… it would just be showing the local feed anyways, so leave those commercials IN and then everything is a wash.

    Not all of us can afford the hundreds of dollars a month required to get cable packages with the RSN in it… so even better yet, offer another level of MLB.TV that includes your local as well, and send THEM that portion of the money. I’m not against paying for it, I just want to pay for only what I want.

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    • Steven says:

      That’s the thing. The only reason people have to get cable anymore is for sports, so sports teams have cable companies by the balls. Cable companies in turn have to charge outrageous prices and MLB protects the cable company’s investment by blacking out games.

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    • Evan says:

      You’re getting at the reason for the local blackout in your second paragraph. The blackout is to benefit the RSN (and in turn the team through higher broadcast rights fees) by allowing it to demand a higher carriage fee and inclusion on the basic tiers when it negotiates with cable providers.

      If the games are available locally through MLB.TV then the RSN loses leverage in this negotiation, gets a lower carriage fee and is able to pay the team less. The end result of this system is that the RSN and the team are financially supported by every cable subscriber irrespective of whether they watch a single game. If you create another path MLB and RSNs will either have to take less money or collect more from their actual fans than they did from the each member of the cable subscriber pool.

      I’m not saying the system is fair or just, but that’s the reason behind the blackout system.

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      • Wendy Thurm says:

        This is exactly right.

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      • Yeah says:

        “I’m not saying the system is fair or just, but that’s the reason behind the blackout system.”

        I might say that just by explaining it correctly you’re doing the opposite.

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        • Evan says:

          Yes, I think it’s unfair to people with no interest in watching baseball games (or more precisely, sports in general). I think MLB is benefiting from higher revenues and MLB fans are benefiting by getting a discount as to what they would otherwise pay to watch the games (and perhaps an incidental benefit if you figure that the additional revenues drive up player salaries – it’s not the other way around – and improve the talent pool of players).

          The other matter is the fans who reside in areas where they are blacked out, but have no access to the RSN that carries the games. I would assume that the reason the territories are as large as they are is because MLB is trying to pressure the cable carriers within the blackout area to carry the RSN. The league makes money from selling MLB.tv subscriptions, so it’s unlikely they would decrease the appeal of that product without some other benefit in return.

          I could see MLB agreeing to settle by narrowing some of the territories where it is unrealistic to get the RSN picked up, but I also suspect that the business analysts for MLB have concluded that its revenues are maximized by having a certain percentage of households unable to watch their preferred team.

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      • MLB Showdown Successor says:

        I mean I understand all that, but fine, let them make less money, let the teams make less money and let the players settle for $15 million a year instead of $28 million.

        The end result is that all of this is out of touch with the everyday working american who really just wants to pay a reasonable price to watch his baseball team.

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    • Nick C says:

      Then what you are really arguing is that you are against the structure of cable/sat tv. Same reason why you can’t just order HBO, when all I want to see is Game of Thrones and not Nick at Nite 5.

      Perhaps the antitrust should be filed against DirecTV and Comcast?

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    • Jason says:

      Without the blackouts, cable companies can simply point to MLB.tv for their customers who want to watch baseball if the RSN doesn’t agree to favorable terms.

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  5. MDL says:

    Thank you for the article, Wendy; I love the “look behind the scenes” that your articles provide.

    It seems stupid that MLB has an exemption to federal antitrust laws in the first place. How has this ruling not been overturned over the years?

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    • joser says:

      Because MLB has always done whatever it takes to avoid having a question come before the Supreme Court that might lead to it getting overturned. They rely on it right up to the point where it might come under scrutiny, and then they scurry for whatever dark corner the best settlement can be found.

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    • Wendy Thurm says:

      The city of San Jose hopes its lawsuit will be the impetus for bringing down the antitrust exemption. I’m not convinced it will get to the Supreme Court — which is the only court that can overrule its prior decisions. Congress can step in, but has shown no willingness to do so on issues of league structure and territories.

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    • Josh says:

      just my opinion but I really dont think it is in any fans best interest to have the anti-trust exemption over turned, unless of course you want Mike Trout signing a $300 million deal to sign for some barnstorming league (obviously hyperbole to make the point but you see where I am coming from) the anti-trust exemption protects the status quo of the best players going against the best competition which is what we want as fans, just my 2 cents.

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  6. Tim A says:

    Anyone who wants can buy a proxy ip for a few bucks a month that is outside the country then bounce your ip to mexico, and watch every game.

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  7. Pale Hose Kyle says:

    As a White Sox fan I find it pretty silly that we would be blacked out in Iowa. We have fans in Iowa? That’s our region? I thought it was Cubland out there, what with the AAA team and WGN and all that. The Sox should yield Iowa as a regional blackout zone and hope (in vain, probably) that Iowans watch our games. I see nothing that Reinsdorf could gain by preventing games from being broadcast there.

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    • joser says:

      That actually would be a craft move — much like how the Braves built an audience in unlikely places by having games broadcast on TBS in the 80s.

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      • john jay says:

        Or like the Cardinals did with radio and KMOX broadcast all over the nation, before they put limits on signal strength

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      • Joe Stefani says:

        Those were great days when you could watch Cubs on WGN and Braves on TBS with basic cable.

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  8. RossRoley says:

    I feel bad for Iowans but let me describe a worse example. As a baseball fan living in Hawaii, I’m blacked out on MLB.TV from all west coast teams; Mariners, A’s, Giants, Dodgers, Angels and Padres. We’re 3,000 miles from the nearest team, essentially a continent away. Our local cable package includes Dodgers, Angels and Padres games, so I can somewhat understand those blackouts. But Hawaii is in the “local” market of Seattle? Really?

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    • Steven says:

      I did not realize that about Hawaii. TV wise, it is almost as bad as Iowa (most of Iowa’s cable packages carry one or two of the blacked out teams), but in terms of logically, it is way worse. At least Iowa is only a 3-5 hour drive from a game.

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    • John Gibson says:

      Las Vegas has it even worse.. Blacked out of the Padres, Dodgers, Angels, Athletics, Giants and Diamondbacks. And one cannot get those games via cable, via satellite or via local broadcast.

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    • Andy says:

      Yep, Iowa is worse. You at least have the option to watch 3 of the 6 blacked out teams on cable, we are only given the option of 1 of the 6, depending on what part of the state you live in and depending on which Fox Sports is offered. Very few areas offer more than just one of the Fox Sports, for example, Northwest Iowa gets Fox Sports North so they can watch Twins games where Southeast Iowa only gets Fox Sports Midwest which shows White Sox and some Cubs games. WGN shows some chicago teams too, but those are national broadcasts and they don’t show nearly as many games as they did in the 90s.

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  9. vivalajeter says:

    Wendy, let’s say the fans win, and everybody can watch every team. You’d be able to cancel cable and still watch the Giants. In NY, people can watch the Yankees and Mets. Fans in LA can watch the Dodgers and Angels. What happens to the deal the Dodgers signed with Fox? Do you know if it’s contingent upon things remaining the same, or if Fox would just get screwed by paying (however much money per year – I can’t remember) even though a lot of fans would give up cable.

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    • Wendy Thurm says:

      If the fans win in court and it’s eventually upheld on appeal, the entire structure of baseball broadcasting will change. How that will play out is anyone’s guess. That’s sort of MLB’s point.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        Ok. With the numbers that are out there, like “a team getting $100MM/year for the next 20 years”, I didn’t know if that was guaranteed or not, which would kind of screw the cable company. Not unlike the teams that are locked into crappy TV deals, where they signed long term commitments before the boom and they can’t get out of it.

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      • Yeah says:

        “Local telecasts are critical to connecting with and growing the fan base and promoting the team’s brand. That, in turn, promotes competitive balance.”

        How are things like this actually relevant to the legal question of whether or not MLB’s broadcast policies violate ant-trust laws?

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        • psualum says:

          I think the point is akin to breaking up Bell and forcing the phone companies into various regions.. if you allowed every team to be broadcast everywhere many of the ‘competitors’ to teams like the Yankees/Cubs etc would go under, so by having the blackout rules it actually enhances competitveness and is necessary

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      • Andy says:

        People are making 2 different points, some complain that they are forced to purchase cable to watch their team, which I think is foolish. Most teams get a lot of their revenue from cable and they should be able to pay their bills with that money. My point is that in certain parts of the country it is absolutely impossible to watch certain teams which is a shame. I could purchase they best package that Mediacom offers in Iowa City, but still would not be able to watch Royals, Brewers, Twins, Cardinals and some White Sox/Cubs games. I don’t see how MLB benefits from making it impossible to watch the Twins in Southwest Iowa or impossible to watch the Cubs in Northwest Iowa. If someone could make a logical point as to why MLB does this, I would be elated.

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  10. Chris says:

    Question: (apologize if this has already been answered here or elsewhere) It’s apparent that these broadcast territories change over time (for example, I used to be able to watch the A’s on MLB.TV in Eugene OR, but now I can’t). How are these boundaries decided and why are the boundaries altered from time to time?

    I sort of understand the reason to black-out MLB.TV for these local territories, but I think they should be limited to black-outs in areas where a particular team’s local broadcast can be viewed with the available cable package in that area. If I can’t get the A’s game on the local regional sports network, then the A’s should not be blocked out on MLB.TV. That’s the biggest frustration people have with this system. Obviously, I’m not the first person to express this.

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  11. pep says:

    Fu@k MLB!
    I can’t watch Dodger games in Arizona because of the blackout restrictions. So whats the point of buy the MLB.com package or Extra Innings on Directv if they will black out games. NFL only blacks out local games. So Fu@k MLB!

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    • Doug Lampert says:

      Oh? Our extra innings package shows us the Atlanta feed on blacked out Atlanta games. They don’t show the other team (regardless of who is home), but we get Atlanta (greatly to my Wife’s annoyance, she’s a Cardinals fan and hates the Atlanta coverage team).

      Maybe Atlanta has a separate deal with Direct TV allowing this, but at least some blacked out games are available on Direct TV.

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  12. Gabe says:

    As a baseball fan living in Hawaii I hope they change the blackout rule. Having Giants, A’s Padres, Angels, Dodgers, and Mariner blacked out is absolutely ridiculous.

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    • Joe Stefani says:

      Well, I’m sure all of these teams would take a big hit in attendance if Hawaii fans could suddenly just sit in the comfort of their home and watch to game.

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  13. Jason says:

    It’s weird seeing MLB.tv advertisements in game, as if you could watch what you’re watching now.

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  14. Donut3 says:

    If they can at least give the option to add local market teams to MLB.TV for an extra fee, that would already make the situation better. call it MLB.TV Ultimate or something.

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    • MLB Showdown Successor says:

      This! And give the money to whoever needs it so that it can happen.

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      • boringdan says:

        The cable companies wouldn’t allow this for the same reason they don’t offer a la cart subscription options. They don’t want $5 for you to watch the games, they want $70/month for the package they force you into buying.

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  15. JENinATX says:

    I too live in Austin, have directv so no Astros games for me, but Rangers & Royals fan, so no Astros is not particularly a big deal – but it is dumb. Also have atbat premium & hate that local feeds are blacked out. Does the MLB honestly think I would rather watch a game on my IPad, if watching it at home on my 70″ TV was an option? Guess what – for day games it’s not, I”m at work, making money to pay for game tickets, Satilite, and apps. Weird blackout rules are the same reason we didn’t buy the Directv MLB extra innings package. Tons of weird rules on the weekend, which is pretty much the only time I’d really have the time to watch more than every Rangers game.

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  16. Bill says:

    I don’t think this approach will work, nor should it. MLB has a right to broadcast their games to whomever they please, with or without anti-trust protection. The monopolies that should be attacked are the regional cable monopolies that remove market forces from the pricing of the broadcasts.

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  17. Johnny Ringo says:

    The whole premise of the lawsuit seems silly.

    Since when did it become a “right” to watch a baseball game? It seems to be a curious thing that MLB is being dragged into court, seemingly, to be forced to carry IT’S ASSET, that it owns, on all mediums?

    Seems curious. I was a satellite dealer for over 8 years. Satellite dealers wanted to band together, go to the FCC, and demand that all channels be broken into “ala carte”, meaning, viewers like yourself could pay individually for each channel you want to watch and would not have to pay for channels you don’t watch.

    Broadcasters hate it, because they have gotten sweetheart deals where they can throw in a bunch of channels that “may not be market tested”, or in truth, just totally and completely suck, and that has caused some tension over the years between entities such as Viacom-Dish Network along with many other numerous little stories to tell.

    My opinion is consumer choice is a great thing, critical to free markets, but you don’t want to be forcing the producers into distribution models.

    The goal of most productive sports teams, businesses, is to get as many targeted eyes on their product as possible.

    You don’t have to worry about government legislation taking care of these issues, the teams and the MLB will take care of them soon enough.

    Do you really think they want fans missing their favorite games in Iowa and do you really think MLB believes the majority of these Iowa fans are going to travel to games “simply” because of the blackout restriction?

    Of course not.

    What was the purpose of this lawsuit again? :)

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    • Fart Proudly says:

      From my past watching games, I’d say the issue that needs to change is exclusive territories in areas that do not carry that team’s video, which can lock you out on MLB.tv. Many examples above cite this problem, and I have seen it even with only a two team ‘territory’.

      The old AM radio boundaries need to get into the ‘present’ and match up with the actual video cable distribution. If the RSN is not servicing an area, open it for MLB.tv. When the RSN is not carrying a game, open it for MLB.tv

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  18. Joe Stefani says:

    It seems like more soccer games are broadcast over the public airwaves than baseball games these days. Baseball has lost its way, but I still love it. Unfortunately, a lot of kids are consequently not as interested anymore. Heck, even I can’t afford baseball cards anymore.

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  19. Mike Bigelow says:

    Like Wendy, I’m a recovering lawyer–who actually spent almost four years working on the world’s biggest antitrust case–and this whole mess still hurts my head when I try to make sense of the restrictions.

    One of the esoteric things that drives me nuts in the Bay Area is when the A’s are playing a midweek day game out-of-town that isn’t being broadcast locally, but IS being shown on the opponent’s RSN, and we still can’t get it over MLB.tv. There is absolutely no direct threat to the local cable providers since it’s not like I’m going to tune in to their repeats of amateur skate park tricks from 2002 just because I can’t watch the game. Still, I get told that it’s blacked out because I’m in the broadcast area even though it’s not being broadcast.

    So it’s kinda like going to a restaurant and being told you can’t have the steak you want until you finish what’s already on your empty plate. Granted, there’s no real boo-hoo since I’m in a market with two local teams that generally get good coverage, but it’s yet another representation of just how asinine these rules are.

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  20. Wandy Thurdriguez says:

    Another Wendy Thurd article where writing up a book report passes for analysis.

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  21. Pennsy says:

    Another wonderful article, thank you Wendy! Yours are the articles on FG I can’t miss. Have to say I much prefer your views on the game of baseball to the incessant number crunching and player comparisons.

    In my mind it essentially comes down to short-term money versus long-term money. MLB could team with internet services and providers to broadcast baseball to as many people as possible. The constant drip of the internet actually seems perfect for a game like baseball that takes longer to complete than other sports and plays so many regular season games every year some of them get rained out and never made up because, whatever. But these companies don’t have a ton of money, or much incentive to throw it at MLB, so the League would benefit more from increasing the popularity of the sport in a generally expanding sports entertainment industry.

    The short-term money, however, involves taking the cash from established companies with deep pockets and a desperation to empty them. Cable companies are being put over the barrel by internet providers, and the ones that thrive in the future will be the ones that transition to an internet model more successfully. But in the meantime they have the demand to watch live sports, which are practically the very last mass entertainment option that works with TV’s outdated advertising model. This should have a negative effect on fans by just about any measure, but MLB hold a position of leverage against these companies. If you ask me, I’d say MLB has done little more than put an effective cap on the growth of its sport over the length of these deals as they are being signed.

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  22. Hamranhansenhansen says:

    The thing that has got to go is the blackouts of MLB.tv. They are insulting and absurd and archaic. I am on the go a lot with a 4G iPad and can’t watch games live because MLB.tv uses the GPS on the iPad to find out I’m in my local market and essentially orders me to go home and watch TV. It is ridiculous.

    What may be worse is the 1.5 hour delay in the blackout AFTER a game has finished! What is that for?

    And every once in a while the blackout detection malfunctions and tells me I can’t watch a game that is on the other side of the country and I have to reboot the device I’m using. MLB.tv actually tells you to power cycle the Internet router if this occurs! Just more absurdity.

    Right now I am visiting Canada, where there are no MLB.tv blackouts — even though the legalese in the MLB.tv apps says Blue Jays games will be blacked out, they are not — and I never enjoyed MLB.tv more.

    MLB has an antitrust exemption so that there can be no competing MLB league. To use that to hurt the baseball fan by stopping the game they want to watch after they have pressed play is the kind of thing that would make me watch a competing MLB league, except there isn’t one.

    And fans who are right now shut out of watching their own local games on TV could use a non-blackout MLB.tv as a fix.

    So whatever they argue about how the games are broadcast on TV — don’t bring that to the Internet. Young people aren’t even watching TV. So the TV issues are like 2 dinosaurs fighting for who gets to be the last dinosaur. At the very least, fix MLB.tv’s blackouts.

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  23. Andy says:

    I just want to watch my Red Sox, it’s bad enough that I’m forced to listen to Hawk when they play the White Sox. But any time the Red Sox play virtually any other midwest team I’m completely out of luck despite the fact that I pay for MLB.tv and the most expensive sports package that my local cable company offers. I pay more than my share to watch baseball and sometimes go a week or 2 without being able to watch it when the Red Sox do a midwest swing. I don’t mind paying for games and don’t mind watching commercials so the cable company can get paid too, but don’t make it impossible to watch a team just because MLB owners have decided that I should be a Cubs/White Sox fan.

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  24. orca17 says:

    I live in Las Vegas – almost five hours’ drive from the nearest MLB park. Like the people in Iowa, we are in the blackout market for six teams: the Dodgers, Angels, Padres, Giants, Athletics and Diamondbacks. For all of MLB’s talk about all the games you can get with MLB Extra Innings, on any given night as many as 20 percent of the games on TV may be blacked out here. They even black out replays of spring training games. There are games broadcast on MLB Network that I can’t watch.

    I am an Angels fan (as well as a Braves fan from my days living in the south). For example, if the Angels are playing the Red Sox in Boston and NESN is carrying the game but Fox isn’t, I can’t watch it. The way I see it, if I’m watching the game on NESN Fox hasn’t lost anything, because they aren’t carrying the game at all and I’m not watching the World Series of Poker or whatever trash program they are broadcasting instead.

    MLB claims that they are protecting the rights of their broadcasters. All they are protecting is their right to lose me as a viewer, because if the game I want isn’t on, I’m going elsewhere for entertainment. This system seems deliberately designed to kill interest in the game. The networks have already been paid for their programming, and anyone who buys MLBEI ought to be able to see any game that is broadcast anywhere, period. This business of teams claiming places 1,000 miles or more away as home markets is asinine.

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