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Why MLB.TV Won’t Show Your Home Team

Q. It drives me crazy that the MLB.TV package and the Extra Innings plan blackouts my local team, the Washington Nationals. Why can’t I watch. I pay good money! It’s really bad because MASN, the channel that has the Nats games, won’t steam on any of the streaming companies like DIRECTV Now. Can you please explain why MLB TV has the home blackout — Wayne, Fairfax, Virginia. 

Mike, as you know, the 2019 edition of MLB.TV, the league’s online package, offers all out-of-market games for $118.99. Pay TV’s Extra Innings package, which is offered by services such as DIRECTV, Dish, Comcast, Charter and Verizon, offers the same games at prices ranging from $175 to $199 for the season.

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That’s a lot of dough, isn’t it? And you can’t even watch your favorite team!

So let me try to explain why.

Major League Baseball’s blackout policy says any game in your “home television territory” will be blacked out whether the team is playing at home or away. You can not watch the game live, but MLB.TV will offer the game in its archives roughly 90 minutes after the game is over.

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It doesn’t seem right, does it? You pay nearly $120 for the MLB.TV package so it would only seem fair that you would get all the games, particularly your home team. And you pay up to $200 for Extra Innings!!

But here’s the method behind MLB’s madness.

Your local regional sports channel — in your case, MASN, which airs both the Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles — pays a significant amount of money for the rights to broadcast those games. It wants you to watch the game on its channel, not a baseball package.

If people are watching the game via a pay package, the ratings for the regional channel will decline and it won’t be able to charge as much for commercials.

Okay, you’re thinking, couldn’t the regional sports channel just add the viewers who watch their game on the package with those who watch it on their channel and come up with a bottom line number?

It’s not that easy. First, research shows that viewers of a pay package of games are less likely to spend as much time watching one game in particular, say the Nats game. In between innings, the MLB.TV viewer will flip around and watch other games rather than watch the commercials. That’s bad for MASN and its advertisers.

Plus, Nielsen does not measure viewing of individual games in a pay package such as MLB.TV so it would be impossible to accurately determine exactly how many people are watching the Nats. That’s bad for MASN, too.

Finally, the regional sports channel wants you to watch it rather than the package because it helps build interest in the channel as a whole. For instance, most regional sports channels air pre-game and post-game shows. If you watch the game on the regional sports channel, you’re more likely to watch those as well.

In fact, Major League Baseball is so concerned about ensuring the regional sports channel gets its money’s worth that it still requires a blackout even if the channel doesn’t air the game, or even if it’s not aired by any channel locally.

And even more frustrating, the league will extend the blackout of the local team scores of miles away from the regional channel’s home base. (Fans in Las Vegas and Iowa are particularly hit hard by this, being unable to watch multiple teams.)
MLB doesn’t want the regional sports channel coming back and complaining that the pay package is stealing potential viewers, even if it the odds of them watching the regional channel is small.

Bottom line: The local blackout rule protects the regional sports channel, which paid a lot of money for that protection.

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— Phillip Swann

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About TV Answer Man (1738 Articles)
The TV Answer Man is veteran journalist Phillip Swann who has covered the TV technology scene for more than two decades. He will report on the latest news and answer your questions regarding new devices and services that are changing the way you watch television.

7 Comments on Why MLB.TV Won’t Show Your Home Team

  1. John Cormack // April 9, 2019 at 5:10 pm // Reply

    I live in Fairhope, AL hundreds of miles from Atlanta, Tampa, & Miami, their website said those teams are blocked out since they are in my home territory. They are crazy!

  2. MLB needs to offer a package which only allows your home team, and nothing else, so their regional sports network can basically be purchased a la carte. That would satisfy the local RSN’s concerns, but we’re still waiting on that option to be developed. But then you run into issues of MVPD’s threatening to drop the local RSN from their bloated cable bundle because it can be purchased a la carte. Maybe someday they’ll figure it out, especially if MLB ends up buying the FOX Regional Sports Networks which Disney is forced to sell.

  3. Years ago there was talk of MLB.TV allowing you to watch your home team without it being blacked out if you qualified by also having a legitimate subscription to a cable or satellite package showing your local RSN. What ever happened to that?

  4. The answer could have been short: Greed and lack of foresight. We cut the cord in the DC area and therefore no longer have access to MASN. Because of this we’ve just stopped watching Nats games. It also means that instead of going to the 10 games we went to last year, we may only go to one or two as out overall interest has been hit by this. They lost not only my MASN subscription but also likely 40 ticket sales (8 games x 5 seats). Sell me MASN alone streaming and I’d pay far more than they’re getting paid per subscriber by the cable companies. Stupid all around.

  5. robert greenage // April 10, 2019 at 4:18 pm // Reply

    Wayne, Fairfax, Virginia. .Hulu and Fubo two streaming companies carry a lot of regional sports channels as part of their regular programming.I have the same problem in philadelphia watching the Phillies. But they are on the regular schedule for both. Check them out.

  6. Nope. MASN refuses to distribute with any streamers. They distribute only through the cable companies, satellite companies and T-Vision

  7. Steven Rinestine // July 26, 2019 at 1:48 pm // Reply

    I realize I’m a little late to this conversation. I understand your explanation just fine. But if the RSN doesn’t want viewers to use pay package like MLB or NHL then why don’t they broadcast OTA instead of via Comcast or DirectTV? I would have absolutely no problem watching my RSN, but I don’t have cable. So my ONLY option is either 1. Get cable, and that’s never going to happen or 2. Pay for MLB/NHL packages, that’s not happening either. So I go with option C. and just don’t watch them unless they are on Network TV. It’s a shame too. They are losing a lot viewers by not showing games OTA like they used to. But, they get millions frpm Comcast and AT&T so I guess it’s a wash.

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