News Bites for February 16, 2015

Ron Darling to try play-by-play for Mets spring training broadcasts. Because he’s good enough, he’s smart enough, and doggone it, the Mets are gonna give him a shot.

USC baseball aplenty on SEC Network Plus, but Time Warner customers still in dark. Thirty-nine games will air on the SEC Network Plus platform, but they were not available to Time Warner Cable and DirecTV customers when the season started on Friday.

Three Lion Baseball Games Slated For Television in 2015. One of Southeastern Louisiana’s will be against preseason #2 LSU on February 25. Games will air on SECNetwork.com and WatchESPN.

SJU-TV To Produce 16 Red Storm Baseball Games For ESPN3. St. John’s University games will be carried on ESPN3, starting with the March 27 match against Rider.

Two 2015 Tulane Baseball games set for television. The Green Wave’s first telecast will be Mach 24 against SEC powerhouse LSU, and April 28 against Southeastern Louisiana, on Cox Sports Television.

Ten Pitt Baseball Games To Be Broadcast In 2015.  All games will take place in the back half of the season, starting April 10 when they host Wake Forest.  They will all air on ESPN3.

Southern Miss baseball set to appear twice on American Sports NetworkASN is a syndicated broadcast network comprising stations in 34 states and DC.

Herd Baseball Unveils TV Game Schedule.  Marshall of West Virginia will have at least three games telecast, split between SEC Network and the American Sports Network.

Texas Tech Baseball Radio Broadcast Available on TuneIn.  All 55 games will be available on the TuneIn mobile app.

What is the Role of Television in the Latest Little League Scandal?

 

A lot of ink and pixels have been spilled during the past week about the scandal involving Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West (JRW) Little League team. If you haven’t learned the specifics by now, JRW annexed parts of three adjacent districts, redrew the map for their own district based on this misapportionment and, most damning of all, backdated the map in an attempt to deceive the officials at Little League International.

Most of the criticism has centered on the adults involved, and that’s certainly appropriate. It’s practically certain that the kids neither initiated nor facilitated the fraud, although they are definitely being held accountable for the misdeed after having been stripped of their championship. As painful as it is for them to be punished for something they did not have a hand in or knowledge of, there is no other real choice. They won their championship with ineligible players because of a fraud carried out by the adults charged with stewarding and mentoring them, and if nothing else, they will hopefully learn that if it is found out that you won by cheating, even inadvertently or unknowingly, the spoils of your victory will be taken away. That’s a good life lesson to learn at that early age, and they will surely never forget it.

What about the adults in all this, though? This same lesson is one they should have themselves learned as children. Maybe they did and maybe they didn’t, but either way, they knowingly perpetrated a fraud, with malice aforethought, for the purposes of maximizing their young players’ chances of achieving ultimate glory. What was in it for the adults?

There are a lot of layers that could probably be peeled from that onion to help explain their motivation, ranging from vicariism to egoism to genuine parental love. There’s another one to consider: the desire to become famous by being on television.

Not every parent or coach or sports official who cheats does so to be on television. We’ve all seen lots of examples of folks cheating “just because”, to seemingly no good or even visible end, and it’s all the more reprehensible to do so by exploiting grade school kids playing a team sport. But here in the media-mad, always-connected, celebrity-obsessed America of the 21st Century, the lure of being on television to a nationwide or even worldwide audience is a powerful motivator that could entice a person, even one who might otherwise not break the rules, to do that very thing in order to appear on television, to become famous, to be interviewed and fawned over and treated like a VIP by everyone around you, if only for a little while. I’m not talking about the kids here. I’m talking about adults who themselves would like to bask in the kids’ glow of achievement. As we all know, that is definitely a thing.

Ethics is almost never a binary yes-no thing, as in “this person is ethical, that person is unethical, and that’s that.” It’s more of a sliding scale, where it is the thing and not the person that is ethical or unethical, and the more powerful the incentive, the larger the reward, the more likely an otherwise upstanding and honest person will be drawn into doing something that’s unethical. And it’s not unreasonable to conclude that the prospect of being on national television is enough to push many normally upstanding citizens closer to the “un” side of the scale.

Make no mistake about it: televising the Little League World Series has become a big deal. The first Little League World Series game was telecast by tape delay in 1962; and until 1985, by which time games were being televised live, it appeared strictly as part of ABC TV’s Wide World of Sports, a series conceived to showcase a panoply of all kinds of sports, great and not so great, from all around the world. Little League baseball was long considered not great enough to be any more than a part of this panoply, and it’s important here to note that it was only the championship game that was being televised each year.

That changed with the dawn of the new millennium. Starting in 2000, televised coverage shifted to ESPN and was expanded to include 12 games. The following year that increased to 25 games, including all eight US regional championships, on the heels of a six-year, seven million dollar deal Little League signed with ABC, the parent company of ESPN. The deal was renewed for eight years and $30.5 million starting in 2006 and was so successful and profitable that the deal was re-upped starting in 2014 for another eight years, this time for $76 million. Last year, a total of 54 Little League games were shown on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC, including the regionals leading up to the final tournament in Williamsport.

Of course, there’s a reason all this corporate money is flowing into baseball games being played between grade school kids: people watch it. Lots of people. And when there is an especially good story surrounding the teams, the ratings skyrocket, and there have been few stories better than two featured this past year: the JRW team; and a flame-throwing young lady pitcher named Mo’Ne Davis from South Philadelphia. According to a report in Sports Media Watch, television ratings were up +71% overall this year versus 2013, and the championship game between JRW and South Korea pulled +65% more viewers than last year’s final tilt.

With all the money and the exposure come the inevitable questions regarding questionable behavior, if not actual impropriety, by Little League International (LLI) officials in this matter. There are reports that an official of a competing Little League association from suburban Chicago brought the allegations regarding JRW to LLI officials during last summer’s tournament, only to be turned away. LLI officials denied that any misconduct had been engaged in by JRW at that time, and again as late as December, responding only that the team had been built within the rules, until the resulting paper trail made continued denial an untenable position. If their role in this did happen as it’s been was reported, and if we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s easy to understand why LLI might reflexively deny wrongdoing rather than either acknowledging the possibility or staying mum. After all, there was a lot of money on the table they might have jeopardized by publicly addressing these issues while the tournament was still going on.

But isn’t this entire situation reflective of a general cultural shift that seems to have occurred in which anything that can be monetized will be monetized, and that in the service of this ideal nothing is out of bounds or off limits, even our children? Witness in recent years the emergence of high school football and basketball games being nationally televised, not just state championship games but all season long, with schoolboys traveling all over the country (on school nights, in many cases) to play other schoolboys for the benefit of the sports networks and their sponsors. In fact, there was a game on ESPNU between Callaway High School in Mississippi and Dominican High School in Milwaukee, located more than 800 miles away, just this past Saturday. There’s even a website devoted to promoting the best eighth-grade basketball players in the country. The commoditizing of children’s athletics, again, for the benefit of the commercial media and their corporate sponsors has established itself as a mainstream phenomenon.

You can’t blame the kids for wanting to play ball on TV. Who wouldn’t want to do that? That would be super cool! And their enthusiasm for such a possibility should not be surprising, nor should it necessarily be tamped down. But when that same level of enthusiasm spreads inexorably upwards to the adults in their lives—the same adults who are charged with teaching their kids the values of honesty and fair play, but who are also in a position to bend rules and falsify documentation and all the other things that can smooth the way to fulfilling their kids’ dreams of being heroes on TV—it sends a dangerously conflicting message to the kids, and reflects terribly on our culture.

News Bites for February 10, 2015

Jack Morris, Kirk Gibson join Rod Allen as FSD Tigers analysts. Looks like there’s going to be a season-long audition for the second seat on Tigers telecasts during 2015.

Thoughts on the Nationals’ Radio Deal in Central Pennsylvania. Here’s the take on a Harrisburg radio station affiliation change from Phillies to Nationals, from SB Nation’s Washington Nationals site. Just for reference’s sake, here’s a Facebook fan map for the Harrisburg area.

Mark Grote to join Cubs radio team.  Remember all those amateurs who thought they were qualified to be the Cubs pre- and post-game hosts?  Yeah, none of them got hired.

White Sox announce ’15 spring-training broadcast schedule. Ten Cactus League spring training games plus eight webcasts will air on whitesox.com. Nine games will be broadcast on flagship radio station WSCR-AM (670-AM), starting March 4.

And now, for a whole slew of baseball media announcements about college baseball:

ESPN to Present Record College Baseball Coverage This Season. More than 675 exclusive regular-season and conference championship games will air on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, SEC Network and Longhorn Network, as well as digital networks ESPN3 and SEC Network+.  This is than triple ESPN’s previous high for number of telecasts, set last season.

LCU Baseball Broadcasts Make Debut With Ramar Communications. An unaanounced number of games will air on AM950/100.7FM (KJTV) and Double-T 104.3 (KTTU).

Lobo baseball releases broadcast schedule. 15 University of New Mexico home games this year will be shown live on UPUBLIC TV and MY 50, starting Fenraury 27.

FSU Baseball Broadcast Schedule Announced.  Florida State baseball will air over 36 games to be televised nationally and/or regionally by ESPNU, ESPN3, SEC Network and SEC Network+, starting this Friday, February 13.

ACC SPRING OLYMPIC BROADCAST COVERAGE ANNOUNCED.  This will include a record 147 baseball games, including all 15 games of the ACC Baseball Championship.

Follow NM State Baseball on KRUX and Online – Adam Young with the play-by-play. 32 New Mexico State baseball games will air either KRUX 91.5 FM or online at www.NMStateSports.com, Adam Young on play-by-play, starting February 27 against Incarnate Word.

Clemson announces baseball video & radio schedules. Five regular-season baseball games will be televised on cable and 42 more will be available exclusively via live online video on TigerCast or ESPN3, starting with this Friday’s tilt against West Virginia.

2015 [Georgia Tech] TV Schedule Announced. No less [sic] than 25 Georgia Tech baseball games will be broadcast this year on television or online via ESPN3.

All 29 [Kansas State] Home Games to be Broadcast on TV. Starting with the Febrary 27 game against Eastern Illinois, games will be split between K-StateHD.TV and various Fox College Sports regional networks.

[Kansas] Baseball Announces TV Slate for 2015 Season.  38 games will be made available to Universoty of Kansas baseball fans, starting this Friday against LSU on SECN+/ESPN3.

Pac-12 Networks announces on-air talent & programming for third season of baseball coverage. “Former Major League Baseball player Randy Flores and longtime play-by-play man Daron Sutton join JT Snow and a bevy of broadcasters on Pac-12 Networks’ 114 collegiate baseball telecasts this season, [which] kicks off Friday, February 13 at 3 p.m. PT when Stanford hosts Indiana.”

2015 [Big 12 Conference] Baseball Telecast Schedule Announced. Seven regular season contests will feature all nine of the league’s squads, beginning on March 15 with Texas hosting West Virginia.

[North Carolina State] TV Schedule Announced.  36 games will air in 2015 on GoPack All-Access, ESPN3, ESPNU, and RSN.

 

Bad News: MLB Blackouts Will Probably Still be in Force for 2015

Forbes.com broke the news last Friday that MLB and Fox were in discussions to allow streaming of broadcasts of your local team to your computer, game console or mobile device if you live in a Fox regional sports network (RSN) market (which most of the country does not).

Now comes word that those negotiations have “reached an impasse” and it’s become less likely that the blackout restrictions will be lifted for 2015, if ever.  The crux of the biscuit seems to be whether Fox will be allowed to stream such game through their Fox Sports Go! app, or whether MLB will insist that MLB Advanced Media, the part that actually streams the content, maintain the right to exclusive distribution.

MLB guards their video content to what many people might consider a ridiculous degree.  As Maury Brown points out in the more recent article, the NBA has deal allowing RSNs to stream local games for free.  The FCC themselves repealed the NFL’s policy against blacking out home games that are not sold out, although in reality most NFL games sell out, so it’s not such a big issue these days.

MLB, on the other hand, exerts jealous control over the video dissemination of major league baseball content, whether through live broadcast, or dissemination of any video by third parties (although a quick scan of results from a search for “major league baseball” on YouTube reveals plenty of game action, some of it stunningly high quality, uploaded by people who don’t seem to be connected with MLB at all).

In any event, this news is not good, but also not unexpected if you know anything about MLB policies regarding broadcasting and blackouts in general.  here’s a link to the Forbes.com story:

With Impasse Between FOX Sports And MLB, Don’t Expect Blackouts To Be Lifted For 2015 Season

A Bevy of Hall of Famers Did Baseball Radio Work in 1939, and Here’s the Proof

Committee member Bill Dunstone has shared with us this terrific find: an article, first published in the Sporting News in 1939, about former ballplayers who were set to take the booth that season, after having taken the field for various teams for so many seasons previous to that.  The best part of this picture, to us, is that no fewer than five of the players pictured here are Hall of Famers.

We can positively identify this as being from 1939 since that is the only year Walter Johnson, arguably the greatest pitcher in the history of the game and the only player/broadcaster here that was already in the Hall (elected in its inaugural class in 1936), did the radio broadcasts for the Washington Senators for WJSV.

Two other future Hall of Famers in this picture who were doing play by play in 1939 were Harry Heilmann (Tigers on WXYZ; he broadcast for the team from 1934 to 1950), and Frankie Frisch (doing Red Sox and Bees games on WAAB; he also did Giants games on TV and radio in 1947 and 1948).  Frisch was voted into the Hall in 1947; Heilmann was elected in 1952.

The final two Hall of Famers pictured here were doing studio work that season.  Waite Hoyt, selected by the Veterans’ Committee in 1969, did pregame broadcasts for the Yankees and Giants on WABC in 1939, but later he would do radio play by play for the Reds from 1942 to 1965.  Freddie Lindstrom, a Veterans’ Committee selection in 1976, spent the season in question working at WLS in Chicago.

Even though the pictures of the men themselves is very grainy, the accompanying story is very legible.  Thank you, Bill, for sharing this with us!

If you, too, have any interesting artifacts, such as pictures, stories, video files, audio files or anything of the like, please feel free to contact us so we can share them with our readership as well.

Click on the thumbnail image below to open a new tab and view it in its full size glory.  (You may need to click the picture in the new tab once more to make it full size.)

1939 Ex-Player Broadcasters

Forbes.com: Fox, MLB in Talks to Stream Local Broadcasts

(h/t forbes.com)

(h/t forbes.com)

On the heels on an interview Maury Brown of Forbes.com had with Rob Manfred, the new MLB Commissioner, in which the latter’s statement that Baseball’s blackout policy is a by-product of a territories system that is the “foundation of the very structure of the league”—a statement that blazed a trail throughout the American social media landscape all this week—comes word from Brown that MLB and Fox are in negotiations to air all Fox regional sports networks (RSN) baseball broadcasts into local markets via streaming, something that has been unavailable since the beginning of streaming.

Under the plan, MLB Advanced Media is seeking to stream games broadcast by Fox RSNs within the team’s local market through their MLB.TV app, which is available on computers such as PC and Mac desktops and laptops; through set-top devices such as Xbox, Playstations, Apple TV, smart TVs and the like; and through mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets using the MLB At Bat app.  Fox Sports would also like to participate in the streaming action, showing games on their own Fox Sports Go app which is also available most if not all the same devices.  Brown says this control of the stream is a major sticking point holding up the agreement, which is said to be in the late stages of negotiation.

As Brown indicates, an agreement between Fox and MLB would free about 40% of all regional and local broadcasts to be streamed within their teams’ local markets, since that represents Fox’s share of such broadcasts.  The other major RSNs operated by Comcast and Root Sports don’t appear to be part of the talks; nor are RSNs owned and/or run by teams themselves, such as YES (Yankees), MASN (Orioles), NESN (Red Sox) and a few others.

From a user standpoint, viewers would log into their MLB.TV account, authenticate their pay-TV service’s credentials while doing so, and if successful, be released from their local blackout.  It’s not clear from Brown’s article whether users would need to authenticate pay-TV credentials when logging into MLB.TV upfront, or separately when trying to specifically access their Fox local market game, but if MLB follows the path of making the most sense it would definitely be the latter, since that would mean a cord cutter wouldn’t be able to use MLB.TV at all, for lack of upfront pay-TV credentials.

Speaking of whom: assuming this last point is true, cord cutters are still losers under this arrangement, since they would have no pay-TV log in credentials to use to bypass their local blackout.  Well, at least technically that’s true, as it is well understood that many people with login credentials for Netflix, Hulu and other pay services freely and gladly share those credentials with friends and family who have no such credentials.  But if you had to pick one and only one company who could figure out a way to undermine that kind of sharing, though, wouldn’t MLBAM have to be your first, if not only, guess, since their business model promotes restricting access as much as possible?  They would be mine, anyway.

However, when you think about it, it becomes clear that neither MLB nor their partner broadcasters care much for cord cutters anyway, for obvious reasons.  For one thing, they’re not pay TV customers, and furthermore probably won’t become customers anytime soon, and the relationship between the broadcasters and MLB is strong enough that MLB wouldn’t risk offending their broadcaster partners by trying to do some kind of end-around to get cord cutters on board the blackout removal train.  For another thing, cord cutters are a very small percentage of total households, less than 11% in total, so in terms of scale of effort versus return on investment, it just wouldn’t be worth MLB’s time.

Also losing in this arrangement, as it stands today, would be MLB.TV customers in the very largest DMAs (i.e., TV markets) in the country, as well as the ancillary DMAs that belong within their MLB territories.  Of the top ten DMAs, eight of them do not have Fox among their local RSNs: New York; Los Angeles (outside of Orange County); Chicago; Philadelphia; San Francisco-Oakland; Boston; Washington DC; and Houston.  These eight DMAs make up 25% of all the TV households in the country, and when you add the secondary markets within their teams’ territories into the mix, it probably adds another five to ten points to that number (source: author’s SWAG).

Nevertheless, this does seem to be a decent first step towards solving the MLB blackout conundrum that has vexed not only the actual business of Major League Baseball, but also the public’s perception of Major League Baseball as a business, which has not been held in the highest of esteem for some time.  Little by each, however—we’ll accept and applaud these first steps as the Big Baby takes them.

News Bites for February 6, 2015

Cubs radio job draws hundreds of pros … and fans.  Over 400 resumes have poured in for the new third announcer position on Cubs radio broadcasts airing on new flagship WBBM-AM, not only from pros, but from dewey-eyed “lifetime Cubs fans who got an autograph from their favorite player when they were 7.  Because of that, they are perfect for the job.”  Yes.  That is perfect.

MLB’s Awful Blackout Rules Are Finally Under Attack In Court.  If you haven’t read this Deadspin piece, consider clicking the link and doing so.

MLB Blackout Restrictions are the Same Old Story.  An op-ed piece against the restrictions by generally excellent Vice News.

Shedding Light on Blackouts: Nothing Wrong with MLB’s Territorial Rights.  Here’s a relatively contrary point of view presented without comment, other than to say be sure to read the comments as well.

Manfred predicts resolution in Orioles, Nationals TV dispute.  The crux of the biscuit lies in what “fair market value” means, dictating what the Orioles, supermajority owner of MASN, should be paying the Nationals for their games on the RSN.  The Nats are looking for a 3x annual increase for post-2012 games versus pre-2012 games.

Tigers to appear on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball 3 times in May.  What, no Yankees?  What are we supposed to complain about now?

Nationals’ outfielder Jayson Werth’s likeability questioned by John Feinstein. Interesting question: do baseball players owe beat writers not only their time and attention, but their pleasantness and deference as well?  And are writers justified in criticizing players’ personalities when they feel players don’t sufficiently comply?

Harrisburg, Penn. radio station dumps Phillies for Nationals.  Insert Phillies on-field-performance jokes here.  Remember, also, that Harrisburg is home to the National’s Double-A affiliate.

Louisville Baseball Releases 2015 Radio Schedule.  Fifty-three of the university’s regular season games, all postseason games to be aired on 93.9 The Ville or 1450 WXVW.

Great Lakes Loons hire Chris Vosters as new play-by-play announcer.  Chris Vosters called two seasons in the collegiate summer Northwoods Baseball League.

Lexington radio station to broadcast Blowfish games. Z93.1 The Lake will broadcast play-by-play action for all 56 games for the Coastal Plain League team for the 2015 season, plus any playoff games they might play.

Signups for 2015 MLB.TV are underway. Baldly promotional release, although it’s entertaining the way the Brit calls the package “brilliant.”

New Commissioner Rob Does Not Want To Budge on MLB Blackouts

 

Rob Manfred has been making the media interview rounds of late, speaking with ESPN, the Los Angeles Times and Fox Sports, among others.  But by far, the most interesting interview took place with Maury Brown of Forbes.com, at least from our standpoint, because it is the only interview in which the suboptimal (from the fan’s POV) state of out of market game broadcasts was broached.

The other day, we posted about last week’s ruling in the District Court of Southern New York in which Judge Shira Scheindlin rejected MLB’s petition of a summary judgement against the several fans bringing suit challenging Baseball’s monopoly on delivering broadcasts of games to out of market fans, because of high pricing and lack of availability based on the crazy quilt that is Baseball’s territory map.  Every square inch of the United States falls into the territory of one team or another—or even six, in some cases, as demonstrated by this map:

(h/t Deadspin)

Iowa, in particular, is one of the unluckiest places in the country to be a baseball fan, especially if you’re a fan of the Cubs, White Sox, Twins, Brewers, Cardinals and Royals.  It’s even worse when you realize that on some days during the season, as many as 40% of all major league teams are completely unavailable for you to watch (since the blackout affects their opponents that day, as well.)

So unlike the other three vehicles mentioned earlier–all of which are owned by media companies who broadcast major league ballgames–Brown was free to ask the prickly questions about the restrictive broadcast policies to an annoyed commish that the others presumably were not.

Here’s the key question from the Brown interview:

Maury Brown: The #1 customer complaint to MLB.com is about the league’s blackout policy. There are some markets that see as many as 6 teams blacked out due to club TV territories. What would you say to fans that pay to see games, yet wonder why a business would limit its product to them?

Rob Manfred: Television territories that cause these blackouts are integral to the economics of the game. They’re a foundation of the very structure of the league. Blackouts are actually caused, not by our desire not to cover that area, but by the inability of the rights holder to get distribution in certain parts of the television territories. It’s not solely our issue to resolve. Having said that I am aware of these complaints and whenever we have an issue like this we are constantly evaluating how we do business to make sure we are as fan friendly as possible.

Did you get that?  MLB blackouts are not caused by asinine MLB blackout policies.  MLB blackouts are caused by ineffectual broadcast partners who are unable to get distribution in the affected areas, many of which are outside of the DMA in which the team is located, and some of which are over 1,000 miles away from where the team plays.  So if you want to watch any of the blacked out teams on TV, you better subscribe to satellite or cable AND hope you have an RSN on your system that offers your favorite team.  Because if you don’t, you are SOL (“so out of luck”).

It strikes me as disingenuous that MLB should blame their rights-holding partners for the inability to broadcast games in certain areas because of the way Baseball themselves drew up the map.  After all, MLB could open up huge swaths of territory that does not host any major league teams and allow them to be free of such broadcast restrictions, if they so wanted.  Digital commercial insertion technology exists that could deliver local or regional commercials, the same ones that local RSNs show to their viewers in the area, to those in the area who are watching on Extra Innings or MLB.TV as well.  So there could be a revenue stream that could mollify the RSNs on that front.

One thing is pretty clear from Brown’s interview, however: Manfred thinks MLB’s out of market broadcast policy is peachy just the way it is.  And to change it, it’s going to take nothing less than overturning the broadcast monopoly that MLB presumes they have in court.

MLB’s Broadcast Monopoly Status Might Be Showing Some Cracks

 

You may have heard by now that a New York federal judge ruled last Friday that MLB’s antitrust exemption does not apply to broadcast rights.  The story gets its best treatment here:

Judge Rules MLB’s Antitrust Exemption Doesn’t Apply to Television Broadcast Rights

This could be a very big deal because currently, MLB controls nearly practically every aspect of the audio and video distribution of its product to the fans who live outside their favorite teams’ designated territories.  This is a right they claim by dint of the antitrust exemption they gained in the Supreme Court ruling Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore v. National League in 1922.  The exemption has long been interpreted by MLB as allowing them to prevent other concerns from delivering this audio and video content as competitors.

Now U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin has thrown a monkey wrench into the works by rejecting motions for summary judgements—essentially a dismissal—of a class-action suit brought by a group of fans who maintain that MLB and their constituent clubs are an “illegal cartel” that make “agreements to eliminate competition in the distribution of games over the Internet and television.”  They further contend that MLB, satellite and cable companies collude “to divide the live-game video presentation market into exclusive territories, which are protected by anticompetitive blackouts. Not only are such agreements not necessary to producing baseball contests, they are directed at reducing competition in the live-game video presentation market, involving and protecting third parties who operate only in that separate market.”  Pretty strong stuff, but it does have to be this strong out of the gate to be taken seriously.

Two weeks previosuly, 9th Circuit Court Judge Alex Kozinski wrote an opinion in the suit by the city of San Jose against MLB, for preventing the movement of the Oakland A’s franchise there, that some interpreted as being favorable for maintaining MLB’s out of market broadcast monopoly as well by defining the antitrust exemption on very broad terms, due to the decision made in the Flood v. Kuhn case in 1972 as well as “congressional acquiescence”.  But the ruling by Scheindlin flew in the face of that broad interpretation, carving out an exception for the out of market broadcast rights on the grounds that MLB had not “demonstrated that exceptional circumstances warrant the requested relief” from the class action lawsuit challenging their monopoly out of market delivery status.

What this boils down to at the moment is that there is potentially a sharp disagreement between the Circuit Court level and the District Court level as to how broadly the Antitrust Exemption can be interpreted as applying to MLB’s scope of business.  It’s possible that both these cases could end up at the Supreme Court at some point, but because the out of market broadcast suit is only at the District Court level and in fact has yet to even be certified as a class action suit, which won’t happen until later this month, we are probably looking at several years before a decision favorable to out of market consumers could be made.

The bottom line here is: don’t hold your breath while waiting for lower cost TV, radio and Internet game packages to be offered by companies competing with MLB.  But do keep your eye on what’s happening in Judge Shira Sceindlin’s court room at the Southern District of New York next month.