MLB.tv, NBA League Pass Broadband leaving more than money on table with local blackouts

I've been to approximately 20 Mariners games so far this year and as much the hydroplane races annoy me, there's one jumbotron regular I find even more irritating. That'd be the constant barrage of ads for MLB.tv. While the ads are dumb, this isn't what annoys me, it's the fact that they're lying in the face of everyone there.

You know what the 2010 slogan is for MLB.tv? Go ahead and Google it. Yeah, that's right: Baseball Everywhere. For those who have used the service—and I have for the past two years—it's easy to see this is untrue. Now, I knew full-well about the MLB's blackout restrictions going in, and everyone else should as well, but for Major League Baseball and those affiliated to continue to tout the product as a premier or perfect platform for fans is wrong.

As an anecdote, I can watch the Seattle Mariners anywhere...as long as 'anywhere' isn't home in downtown Seattle. Or all of Washington State. Or when I was at school in Missoula, MT. I could travel to as far away as Fairview, Montana (1,100 miles) and still not be able to watch the Mariners.

If you haven't seen it, take a look at the MLB blackout map.I feel awful for anyone who saw an ad for MLB.tv and truly believed they could 'take baseball wherever they go', only to throw down more than $100, go to click a game featuring their favorite team to find out that all games will be blacked out in their area.

Now, what's wrong with this? Why should the NBA and MLB do more to make all games, especially local games, available online? Plain and simple: right now, they're doing wrong by their fans. And not just regular fans, I'd argue some of their biggest fans, their most influential fans. We can live without cable television—which for most of the first-world has become as standard as running water—but we cannot get by without watching our team. We're diehards. We tell everyone about what happened.

I have a colleague, a Portland native, who went to purchase a $15 League Pass Broadband subscription for NBA Summer League (Summer League!) only to find out every single Blazers game would be blacked out. Instead of commenting on first round pick Luke Babbitt or second-year forward Jeff Pendergraph, he's telling everyone how stupid the NBA is for abandoning a core group of fans. Well done, guys.

So, some bullets on why the NBA and MLB need to get their act together.

  • We'll pay. Charge us more, show us ads, we don't care. Figure it out. Everyone I've talked to says they're willing to spend more—in straight dollars, limited access to out-of-market games, or showing us the same ads you're showing cable viewers—to see their favorite team.
  • In case you haven't noticed, we're at a computer. Yeah, that's right, the most powerful communications and marketing tool there is. If there's a great game on, you'll bet we'll tell everyone we can about it. If there's a MLB-created forum for us dedicated fans, I'm sure we'll be willing to take a look and share our opinions with other fans. Even if it's on independent blogs, conversation is conversation. For sports teams and leagues, being talked about is obviously more advantageous than not being talked about.
  • Expand and nurture the base of diehards. If you haven't noticed, young adults (actual young adults, 20-30 year olds) are turning away from unnecessary expenditures like cable television. If we want to watch baseball or basketball, that's what we want to watch, not all the extra channels that come with my subscription to Fox Sports Northwest. We're quickly becoming the generation of Hulu, Netflix Instant and illegal Megavideo streams. And you know what? We're tomorrow's season ticket-holders. Not catering to our fandom now is only going to cause it to wane in the coming years.

So, get it together. There's no reason why Major League Baseball and the NBA can't figure this out. If they want to hold our interest, and our dollars, then stop looking out for the cable companies and work towards giving fans what we want.

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br8thw8 - September 6, 2010 2:14 PM

I agree wholeheartedly. I'm baffled at the choices that MLB is making in regards to how they treat their fans. And they seem so out of touch with the fan base that has access to technology. I would be willing to pay more to watch my team. I cannot make it to every game, and especially when I'm out and about and not near a TV, I would love to be able to watch the game on my iPhone or iPad. C'mon MLB, make this happen already, and charge me if you have to. Just do it!

Frustrated fan in San Diego

@CarlosJPG - October 27, 2010 7:54 PM

I completely agree with you. I'm a Padres fan and I'm fortunate to have Padres.TV, is like MLB.TV but just for the Padres. I think the Yankees are the other team to have a local .TV packag. The NBA and MLB should have the same for every team.

NBA is more ridiculous ... games that are blacked out because of national TV broadcasts are not even available on replay. Fortunately those games are available on ESPN3.com ... and TNT is now offering live streaming.

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