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#pounditMonday, July 15, 2024

Report: MLB looking into finally fixing blackout issue

Rob Manfred looking ahead

Oct 26, 2021; Houston, TX, USA; MLB commissioner Rob Manfred before game one of the 2021 World Series between the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball fans have long been frustrated with the league’s policy on blacking out games in local markets, but that issue may soon become a thing of the past.

MLB announced this week that it has hired longtime regional sports network executive Billy Chambers for the newly created position of EVP/Local Media. According to John Ourand of Sports Business Journal, the main issue Chambers will tackle is helping MLB take better control of their local media rights.

One of MLB’s goals is to create a national product that would combine local rights with its Extra Innings and MLB.TV packages. Extra Innings is a cable subscription package that allows users to watch out-of-market games. MLB.TV does the same but is a streaming service.

The problem for many users is that “local” games are blacked out. The blackout restrictions are meant to protect local TV partners and force fans to watch the local broadcast of the game rather than using their subscription package. With the digital landscape shifting more toward streaming, that has been a huge source of frustration for fans.

Imagine you are a Boston Red Sox fan living in North Carolina. You pay well over $100 for an Extra Innings or MLB.TV subscription, which allows you to watch your favorite team. However, under the current arrangement, any games that the Red Sox play against the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves would be blacked out on subscription packages in an attempt to force fans to tune into the local broadcast. In cases where fans are streaming or don’t have access to the local broadcast, they are unable to watch the game.

We even saw an MLB player who could not watch his own team play during the season due to blackout restrictions. Fortunately, MLB is working on a solution.


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