If you’re a Major League Baseball fan to any degree, you know how much everyone hates the MLB blackout restrictions. For everyone else, let me break it all down for you.
The basic idea of a blackout is if you can go watch a game in person, the league doesn’t want you watching it on TV instead. So those games won’t be on cable TV in your area. Fair enough. But because of the way broadcast rights are distributed across different regional sports networks, the areas that get blocked out can be extremely large—you can’t really go watch the game in person, but you can’t watch on TV, either. And the blackout areas overlap. For example, if you live somewhere like Iowa, where I’m from, six different teams are subject to the blackout rules, making being a baseball fan in Iowa extremely difficult.
Bottom line, if you live somewhere that is considered “out of market,” you’re out of luck.
It’s not just a problem for cable TV, either. Your case is even worse if you are subscribed to MLB.tv, the league’s own streaming service. If you live in the market for your favorite team, MLB.tv will block your stream, placing you in the blackout zone.
While blackout restrictions have long been an annoyance to many baseball fans, the league came under fire during the COVID-shortened 2020 season when they refused to lift the blackout restrictions for fans, despite ballparks not allowing fans in the stadiums for health and safety purposes. And as the 2021 season was taking flight, there were some hints the restrictions might be lifted, but once again the league let fans down.
Why is the MLB making it hard to watch baseball? This is the sport people keep saying is dying. While “dying” might not be accurate, the sport certainly is losing loyal fans. I’m talking about people who want to keep up with the teams but (like the rest of the world) have jobs and other outside obligations. Watching the game on-the-go is the only option 90% of the time, and then it’s not an option, either! It appears that the MLB doesn’t exactly have its priorities straight.
The game is evolving—that’s no secret. With the development of new technology to help pitchers perfect their ball movement and batters tweak their swing, the sport isn’t going anywhere but up. But how will an ever-changing sport fare when the league itself is making the games hard to watch? How will a new generation of fans fall in love with the sport if they can’t watch it?
Fans aren’t the only ones voicing their outrage. Trevor Bauer, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher and notorious vlogger, has spoken out countless times about the restrictions that the MLB has placed on streaming games for in-and-out-of-market fans. Bauer’s content creation company, Momentum, even released merchandise this week to raise awareness about the league’s outrageous blackout policies.
The MLB needs to stop punishing baseball supporters and give fanbases more of a chance to grow and develop. In a world where consumers are abandoning their cable packages left and right, blackouts are a horrible disservice to local and distant fans alike. The MLB has a chance to pave the way for a live streaming service for its fans—past, current, and future—and we are all waiting for them to wake up and do it. We will no longer do so in silence.