TV Answer Man, I read that Rob Manfred wants to end the home team blackouts on MLB TV if Bally Sports goes bankrupt. My question is why wait? He says the blackouts are not good for baseball so why wait to end them??? Just do it already!! — Patrick, Reno, Nevada.
Patrick, Bally Sports’ operating unit, Diamond Sports, may be headed for bankruptcy this month while Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns and operates three AT&T-named RSNs (and has a minority stake in Root Sports), says it wants to exit the business and return the broadcast rights back to the teams/leagues.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has said the league is prepared to take back the broadcasting rights in either scenario. The baseball chief also says that the games, which presumably would be available on the MLB TV package, could be blackout free. He argues that the blackouts have alienated fans, particularly younger viewers who prefer streaming offerings such as MLB TV.
“I think it’s necessary to have a centrally based solution to what’s a really serious problem and move us forward to our next stage of delivering games to fans, delivering them where they want to watch them, and without the kind of blackouts that we’ve had in the old model,” the commissioner said recently when asked about a contingency plan for a Bally bankruptcy.
So if blackouts are bad for baseball, why not end them now, you ask?
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 cannot 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 all that money for a programming package (MLB TV costs $149 this season) so it would only seem fair that you would get all the games, particularly your home team.
But here’s the method behind MLB’s madness.
The local regional sports channel pays a significant amount of money to the teams and league for the rights to broadcast the games. It wants you to watch the game on its channel, not a baseball package.
If people are watching the game via MLB TV, the ratings for the regional channel will decline and it won’t be able to charge as much for commercials.
The RSN also wants you to watch it rather than via MLB TV because it helps build interest in the channel as a whole, which enables the channel to force pay TV operators to pay significant fees to carry it. If everyone could get the channel’s live games on MLB TV, they wouldn’t need to subscribe to the cable, satellite or live streaming service that carries it.
As you can see, it’s all about the money.
But if the RSNs stop paying all that money to MLB, there’s no reason for the league to support the blackouts on MLB.TV. That’s why Rob Manfred is prepared to move forward with a no-blackout offering for games on Bally and the AT&T RSNs. (For the time being, this would not affect games on other regional sports networks which continue to pay the league.)
Patrick, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann