Local blackout restrictions for MLB games have left fans furious in recent years, but that could be changing very soon.
MLB announced that Billy Chambers, a long-time regional sports network executive, would be taking over as executive vice president/local media. Why is this important?
Sports Business Journal says that one of Chambers’ main duties is to figure out how the league can take control of those local blackouts.
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MLB has an Extra Innings cable package as well as MLB.TV’s streaming package, and each serves as a way to watch out-of-market games. Big baseball lovers, and those who live out-of-market and want to catch all of their favorite team’s games, can be frustrated when the local broadcast is the only available game to watch.
An example could be a New York Yankees fan living in Baltimore. While most games would be fine to watch on the subscription service, any time they play the Orioles, Washington Nationals or other teams in the area, a blackout occurs and only allows that fan to watch on a service that provides that broadcast – if they can find it.
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Blackout restrictions are designed to protect local TV partners so fans can watch that broadcast instead of streaming the game. However, with streaming being the preferred choice of viewership for many now, MLB is trying to fix the current set-up.
A situation brought this situation to light when an MLB player actually had an issue watching his team.
Josh Bell, who currently plays for the San Diego Padres, was a Washington National during the 2021 season when he was sidelined due to COVID-19 restrictions. He was forced out for two weeks and was only able to watch his team from home while he recovered.
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The only problem was that he couldn’t stream the game, because of blackout restrictions.
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For a single team, MLB.TV costs a fan $119.99 per year, while a $139.99 package for every team is available. The Extra Innings package for cable is also $139.99 for the year, and it comes with access to MLB.TV for streaming.