MLB’s TV policy is asinine. For a league that ostensibly wants (and actually needs) to grow the game of baseball, they sure do enjoy making it hard for fans to watch it. Right now, the money MLB makes from regional sports networks is more important to them than making the game more accessible.
The league offers a service called MLB.TV, which allows users to stream every out-of-market game during the regular season. But even if you spend $24.99 a month for MLB.TV, you still can’t watch your local team’s games because they’re subject to blackouts. For those, you’ll have to buy a cable package to get access to your RSN.
That price is another major problem. ESPN+ serves essentially the same purpose for the NHL as MLB.TV does for MLB, offering out-of-market games for the regular season. While it has the same flaw as MLB.TV, it only costs $10.99 a month, and you get access to a plethora of other events in addition to NHL games.
While these are obvious ploys to squeeze viewers for more money, there are some stupidly arbitrary restrictions as well. MLB has an entire bullet point on their webpage about blackout restrictions, making it clear that San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics games will be blacked out in Guam. Just imagine MLB bureaucrats coming up with this stuff — “Sure, we’re desperately far behind the NFL in viewership, but it’s more important that we stop those freeloaders in Guam!”
Another example of this lunacy is the fact that the state of Iowa is considered “home territory” for SIX different teams. I guarantee you that policies like this won’t “improve in-person attendance” — like MLB would have you believe — it just means fewer people will watch baseball.
Direct-to-consumer services, like the Chicago Cubs’ Marquee Sports Network, are a positive development, as they allow customers to avoid paying for an entire cable package. But this solution still has a major flaw because, as Marquee notes on its website, MLB policy mandates that out-of-market customers watch the Cubs through MLB.TV. Therefore, it doesn’t help Cubs fans living out-of-market (like myself), who instead have to pay for all of MLB.TV just to watch one team.
The whole blackout system is a nice little quid pro quo between MLB and RSNs. RSNs monopolize their local markets, while MLB monopolizes everything else. This stranglehold is one of the worst things possible for baseball. Under this system, the only people who have reasonably priced access to their team’s games are those living in their team’s market and whose team has a DTC service. Everyone else either has to pay for a cable package if they’re in-market or pay for MLB.TV if they’re out-of-market.
There’s no way for that less fortunate group to pay for just their team’s games, nor is there a way for anyone to pay one price for access to every team’s games. MLB can and should fix this by one, ditching blackouts and making MLB.TV an all-in service that gives you access to local games, and two, allowing out-of-market customers access to their team’s DTC service. It’s time to cut the gouging and just let us watch baseball.