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As 2012 MLB Season Approaches, Blackout Policy Likely to Remain PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 19 January 2012 12:15

BlackoutsFile this one in the “broken record” department: prepare for yet another season of MLB’s blackout policy remaining in place.

The reason for the broken record? This story has been written repeatedly for years. A source at MLB said that for all practical purposes, the matter will likely not be addressed for the upcoming season.

For the uninitiated, the question is, “Why should I be concerned?” That depends on whether you are, or planning to, purchase MLB Extra Innings or subscribe to MLB.TV.

In a nutshell, there are two ways you can be hit with the “blackout blues”. National broadcast partners FOX and ESPN have exclusivity agreements in which no matter where you live, games are blacked out on MLB Extra Innings and MLB.TV.

There’s also local blackouts depending on your location that can impact one, or up to as many as six teams being blacked out in your location.

See the map below for MLB’s television territories:

MLB Blackout Map

MLB's blackout map is a confusing
case of overlapping territories
(CLICK TO SEE IN LARGER VIEW)

Here’s how DirecTV defines the blackout policy:

All local and national blackout restrictions still apply. In other words, subscribers within a club's Home Television Territory cannot get that clubs’ games in this national package. In addition, due to the national exclusivity of both FOX and ESPN, there are no games available for distribution via this package on Saturday day or Sunday night, respectively.

If you live in a ZIP code that is within a Major League Baseball team's territory, that team's games will be blacked out from the MLB EXTRA INNINGS game package, but will generally be available as part of your regional sports network or team's over-the-air affiliate television station. Blackouts protect the local rightsholders who arrange separate distribution agreements with the teams for their exclusive territories

Maybe this will change, but DirecTV has historically provided no zip code locator to allow you to see whether you’re blacked out.

While MLB.com has fine print in a light font on a white page for MLB.TV’s blackout restrictions (scroll to the bottom of this page), at least they provide more details (and this is important) two methods that allow you to see what games you are going to be blacked out for. DirecTV users, this may be where you save yourself some grief (and possibly money) by using MLB’s information to determine whether to shell out around $200 for a first-time Extra Innings subscriber.

MLB adds this information on local blackouts, as well, on their MLB.TV page:

All live games on MLB.TV and available through MLB.com At Bat are subject to local blackouts. Such live games will be blacked out in each applicable Club's home television territory, regardless of whether that Club is playing at home or away. If a game is blacked out in an area, it is not available for live game viewing. If you are an MLB.TV Premium subscriber and not within either Club's home television territory, the applicable game will be available as an archived game as soon as possible after the conclusion of the game. If you are an MLB.TV Premium subscriber within either Club's home television territory or an MLB.TV subscriber in any territory, the applicable game will be available as an archived game approximately 90 minutes after the conclusion of the game. Archived games are not available through MLB.com At Bat.

In addition, note:

  •  
    • These blackout restrictions apply regardless of whether a Club is home or away and regardless of whether or not a game is televised in a Club's home television territory.
    • All live Toronto Blue Jays games are blacked out throughout the entire country of Canada.
    • Additional teams may also be subject to blackout in parts of Canada based on their region.
    • All live games will be blacked out in the U.S. territories of Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands during the MLB regular season.

Remember, this is for Monday-Friday. The weekend is where matters change dramatically.

ESPN SATURDAY AND FOX SUNDAY NATIONALBLACKOUTS

MLB gives this information on how ESPN’s and FOX’s national blackout deal works. FOX holds the rights to Saturday games, while ESPN gets games in the evening on Sundays.

Due to Major League Baseball exclusivities, live games occurring each Saturday with a scheduled start time after 1:10 PM ET or before 7:05 PM ET and each Sunday with a scheduled start time after 5:00 PM ET, will be blacked out in the United States (including the territories of Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands). In addition, in the event of extraordinary circumstances that produce a programming conflict, the above blackout windows may be subject to change. If you are an MLB.TV Premium subscriber outside of the United States, each of these games will be available as an archived game as soon as possible after the conclusion of the applicable game. If you are an MLB.TV Premium Subscriber within the United States or an MLB.TV subscriber in any territory, each of these games will be available as an archived game approximately 90 minutes after the conclusion of the applicable game. Archived games are not available through MLB.com At Bat.

There’s more… What if the season goes beyond 162 games, such as we saw last year with a play-in game?

Regular Season Play-In Game: Due to Major League Baseball exclusivities, any play-in game to determine the final team(s) to reach the MLB Postseason, i.e. a 163rd game, will be blacked out in the United States (including the territories of Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands).

And, blackouts impact the postseason…

Postseason Live Blackout: Due to Major League Baseball exclusivities, during the MLB Postseason, all live games will be blacked out in the United States (including the territories of Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and Canada. If you are an MLB.TV Premium Subscriber outside of the United States and Canada, each of these games will be available as an archived game as soon as possible after the conclusion of the applicable game. If you are an MLB.TV Premium Subscriber within the United States or Canada or an MLB.TV subscriber in any territory, each of these games will be available as an archived game approximately 90 minutes after the conclusion of the applicable game. Archived games are not available through MLB.com At Bat.

And about the national blackout policy, any chance that happens soon? In speaking with sources close to the matter, when asked if the possibility it won't be considered until contracts are renewed with ESPN and FOX, the reply was, "Probably."


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 writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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