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Baseball's Most Important Map Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Saturday, 27 February 2010 13:28

MLB Blackout Map

MLB's blackout map is a confusing case of
overlapping territories.

There are two maps that MLB guards as their most precious. One is based on the operating territory for each club in the league, as defined by the MLB Constitution (see page 14 - PDF). These territories outline how close clubs can be next to each other. For example, the Brewers claim Milwaukee, Ozaukee, and Waukesha Counties in Wisconsin.

The other map for MLB pertains to their broadcast territories. This is the map you should be interested in if you have MLB Extra Innings or an MLB.TV subscription. Why? Because it is how MLB determines its blackout policy.

If you click on the image above, you’ll see that territories often overlap. If you’re in Las Vegas, 6 teams (Giants, A’s, Angels, Dodgers, Padres, and Diamondbacks) claim the location. This can create all kinds of grief for someone that purchases one of MLB’s out-of-market packages only to find that they’re not “getting all the action”. Whether it’s television, your computer, your iPhone or iPod Touch, you can find during the week that games available elsewhere are blacked out for you depending on location.

And, the broadcast map goes completely blank on the weekends. That’s because FOX on Saturdays and ESPN on Sundays have national exclusivity agreements.

Every Saturday, from 1:10 PM ET or before 7:05 PM ET, all games are blacked out on FOX, which typically broadcasts one game starting at 3:55 Eastern. That means in a six-hour window in which games are being played, you can watch two games at most--the FOX game and your local team if it's playing on TV in that window and isn't the game being carried on FOX. On Sundays, ESPN holds the rights to night games, so any games that start after 5 p.m. ET are blacked out. In practice, this only affects a handful of games, as almost all Sunday games are played in the daytime. TBS airs 26 Sunday afternoon games this year which are blacked out in local markets.

And there are national blackouts on television for beyond those two heavy hitters.

Since TBS is now a national partner, they can air an alternate game in areas that see blackouts, and as many as 13 of any single team. So those of you in Boston and New York may barely be aware of TBS' arrangement by the end of the season.

MLB Network has games on Thursday and often times Saturday. For those games, there are blackouts in each team’s home television territory. Viewers in areas subject to blackouts are provided with an alternate game telecast or other programming.

As to whether you’re expecting a change for MLB Extra Innings or MLB.TV and that crazy map, don’t expect it this season, although there’s always an outside chance. Going on four years, MLB has said that they were looking to make adjustments to the territories to try and at least lessen some of the restrictions in areas where clubs have not been broadcasting for years. So, someone in Montana might soon find that Mariners games are not blacked out. As of now, the status quo is still in place, with no change in sight.


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.

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