MLB Could Fix Their Blackout Problem, But…

Apparently MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred hates TV blackouts as much as the fans do. He says the top priority of the league right now is “reach.” He is concerned that not enough people can watch baseball.

I’m kind of having trouble believing him. There are a lot of games right now being shown behind paywalls. They don’t have to be. You also have MLB’s own blackout rules on local market games for their own MLB.tv service. ESPN Sunday Night Baseball is available on most cable and streaming services, but you have to pay for that. I’m short, it costs money to be a baseball fan in your living room, let alone if you want to go to games.

When baseball was the top sport in America, all you needed in the early days was a radio to listen, or later a TV with an antenna. That is over and long gone, and not really to any improvement in the experience of the fans. Now you pay for what you want to get, and pay handsomely.

Good luck changing this though. Between the league wide TV deals and “home market” TV deals negotiated by the teams, every team in the league has $100 million in gross revenue before they even start. Bigger teams like the Dodgers or Phillies have even more. While viewership has dropped, networks and streaming services will pay for this because it increases their negotiating power with each other and consumers. More importantly advertisers will pay to be on during games because they know the viewers had enough money to purchase television to begin with, so they probably can afford their products too. In other words, the money is too good to break up the racket. Sure, MLB could negotiate deals that don’t have paywalls and blackouts, but they’d get less money for that deal.

In other words, don’t hold your breath.