Tag Archives: mlb.tv

Here’s Your Bullet Point Guide to the Garber v. MLB Broadcast Lawsuit Settlement

"There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. ..."
“There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. …”

A lot of pixels have been spilled about the settlement in the lawsuit named Garber et al v. MLB et al, aka, the lawsuit to strike down too high prices for baseball packages and those ridiculous blackout restrictions to boot.

There are a lot of facts about what the settlement means to us, the regular fans, flying around in multiples stories, so I thought it might be helpful summarize everything in a handy-dandy series of bullet points.

So, without further ado, here is what the settlement in Garber v MLB means to us fans as of today:

  • Single-team packages will be made available at a cost of $84.99 for the 2016 season.  These single-team packages will be available to out-of-market viewers only, e.g., Tigers games for fans in Tampa; Cubs games for fans in Phoenix; Cardinals games for fans in Chicago; you get the idea. If you’re a Tigers fan living in Detroit, the Tiger team package will still not be available to you. You will not need to authenticate your credentials with your cable or satellite provider to get this package.  So, cord cutters welcome here.
  • The cost of the MLB.TV Premium will also be lowered as part of the settlement, from $129.99 to $109.99.  What Premium gives you over MLB.TV Basic is away radio audio overlay; a free MLB At Bat app (worth ~$20); and access to games on devices other than just computers and laptops, including smartphones and “over the top” devices such as Xbox, Roku, Apple TV, etc. Click here for a current device list.
  • For the next five years, the price for the single-team and MLB.TV packages can rise each year by only the greater of (a) 3%, or (b) the annual national cost-of-living adjustment.  That means the most the package will cost in 2020 is $95.99 for the single-team, and $123.99 overall.  (This part in particular is how you can tell that it was lawyers who worked out this settlement.)
  • In addition to the MLB.tv streaming service, satellite and cable providers may also elect to offer single-team packages for out-of-market teams as well.  However, at least in the case of national providers, they would have to offer packages for all 30 teams and not just, say, the Yankees, Red Sox and Cubs only.  Price of this is still TBD.
  • Extra Innings packages, available through DirecTV, Comcast Xfinity and several other providers, will reduce their prices from 2015 levels by 12.5% for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.  Actual prices are yet to be determined and should be available to DirecTV customers in early February.
  • If you are a fan living in an area that is “unserved” by any satellite or cable service at all, you will be able to get an exemption to the in-market blackout rule and buy packages that include your market’s team, based on your (billing?) address.
  • By the All-Star break, MLB.tv will offer an additional option called “Follow Your Team”.  This is completely different from the single-team package above.  FYT will allow you to watch the out-of market broadcast (only) of your in-market team when they are playing out of town. For example, if you’re a Tigers fan and they’re playing the Twins at Target Field, with this option you will be able to tune into the Twins telecast (but not the Tigers telecast) if you are physically in the Tigers market at the time.  This option will cost $10 on top of your MLB.tv subscription. Understand four things, though: (1) Your local RSN has to give consent for fans in their area to participate in this offer; (2) even if they do consent, to get this, you will need to authenticate your credentials through your cable or satellite provider—cord cutters not welcome here; (3) you can’t just get the FYT as a $10 standalone. It’s available only an add-on to a full MLB.tv subscription; and (4) you will still not be able to see any of a in-market team’s home games on MLB.tv at all while physically in that market.
  • Blackout rules are not affected by this settlement at all.  They still apply in the same way they always have. So if you live in Iowa, Las Vegas or Hawaii, you will still not be able to watch those six blacked-out teams’ telecasts on your MLB.tv, same as before, except if you subscribe to their “Follow Your Team” feed, and then only their away games, and even then only the away team’s telecasts, and even even then except if they’re playing another team that also happens to be blacked out in your area!

Separately from (although likely spurred by) this case, last November, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced a three-year deal in which the fifteen regional sports networks controlled by FOX Sports would begin offering in-market streaming of games during the 2016 season, provided FOX regional sports network viewers authenticate with their cable or satellite provider.  Last Tuesday’s settlement extends this deal to Subscribers of DirecTV and Comcast’s sports nets as well. The only teams now not covered by this separate agreement are the Dodgers, Mets, Nationals, Orioles and Red Sox.

You can read the entire case settlement here:

Garber et al v. MLB et al

The $64 question at hand: Is this settlement a win for the fans? That depends on your point of view. If you believe that any loosening of the labyrinthine MLB broadcast restrictions counts as a positive, and it would for many fans, then yes, this is a win for them.  If your definition of “win” is complete freedom to watch any team in any market on any device you choose, then there is a long way to go before you will be able to claim that level of victory.

Nevertheless, many industry observers believe this settlement is a key step toward positioning MLB’s digital arm, BAM Tech, for a future of viewing untethered to expensive cable, in which BAM Tech will be able compete with Netflix, Hulu and other like content providers in delivering original content.  This future would have to include the erosion of the blackout restrictions still in place for it to be a serious contender among those original content providers, but given the rate at which people have been cutting the cord of late, it seems to be a pretty good bet that Baseball and its affiliate clubs will find a way to rework its Luddite restrictions sooner than later to achieve this end.

 

Here’s the Best Reason for a Baseball Fan to Fly on JetBlue, at Least for Now

You get to watch major league baseball games for free!

By using JetBlue’s in-flight “Fly-Fi” content portal (which presumably presents itself after you log in to the plane’s free wi-fi service), you as a passenger can access major league games on either the MLB At Bat app on your smartphones, even if you don’t subscribe to MLB.tv through your app already; or through your laptop at the MLB.com website.

The service will offer “more than 2,500 live and archived games on demand per season” at “speeds up to 20 mbps per device”, meaning that “customers using Fly-Fi Hub can catch any Regular Season game being played by any of MLB’s 30 teams at any time.”

In other words: no blackouts apply.  Which makes sense, because how do you enforce blackouts while flying across the country?  It would be a terrible user experience to watch a Tigers games on a New York to Chicago flight, only to suddenly lose the game to blackout the moment you enter Michigan airspace, which would completely defeat what both JetBlue and MLB Advanced Media are trying to accomplish with this partnership.

JetBlue is making this service available on flights within the “contiguous” United States, meaning the lower 48 states only. The other main thing I notice in the press release about this service is that no launch date is mentioned, which I take to mean that it is available right now. If you’ve been on a JetBlue flight and this isn’t yet true, though, let me know and I will update this article.

Here is the JetBlue press release itself, if you’re interested:

http://blog.jetblue.com/index.php/2015/07/09/jetblue-adds-mlb-tv-streaming-taking-live-baseball-to-the-skies/

Does the DISH/Extra Innings Deal Really Mean In-Market Streaming is Nigh?

After an eight season absence, MLB has broken the bonds of its quasi-exclusive arrangement with DirecTV and Big Cable’s iN Demand consortium and have signed on DISH Network to carry the Extra Innings package starting this season.  The most interesting aspect, of course, was the prospect that live MLB games would finally be streamed in-market, an issue which has picked up steam this offseason in particular.

The DISH deal appears to open the door to that possibility by including this in the press release about the deal:

“The agreement provides a path for consumers to have authenticated access to stream live in-market games on digital properties from MLB, local programmers  and pay-TV providers. In-market live streaming would require additional agreements between the parties including DISH, MLBAM and programmers with local TV rights of MLB games.”

It has become clear since Rob Manfred replaced Bud Selig in the Commissioner’s chair that Major League Baseball really, truly wants to allow all of their product to be made available on all MLB.TV digital platforms, including the local game streaming within the local market.  This is something that has been more or less banned ever since the beginning of Internet-based broadcasts of live games.

But just because the press release says this “path” has been “provided for” doesn’t mean it’s going to happen very soon, or even soon-ish.  As Maury Brown metaphorizes in his sharp article about the deal, the broadcasting relationship in place among the parties is a three-legged stool: MLB is one leg; the telecast networks like Fox and NBC/Comcast and ROOT are the second leg; and distributors such as satellite and cable providers are the third.  But it is that third leg that is the load-bearing leg that might undermine the whole arrangement if they were to pull out, and they have a good reason to pull out, or at least threaten to, if the other two legs insist on in-market streaming.

In this era of programming in which the majority is time-delayed by watchers so they can view it at their convenience―and, incidentally, be able to zip through expensive commercials―sports programing is considered the gold bar of programming, since it almost always demands live viewing to fully appreciate it.  With that live viewing comes much greater viewing of commercials.  Because of this, commercials in sports programming are more expensive per viewer than in nearly all other types of programming.

But if local live sports becomes available to viewers on digital platforms (i.e., platforms other than cable and satellite), then that removes a very big reason for people to continue to subscribe to cable services that are, let’s face it, more costly by a factor of multiples than what people are willing to pay.  And even though such in-market digital games would be available only by authenticating “your” existing subscription, anyone who has a friend who subscribes to Netflix or Hulu knows that login credentials can be shared with as many people as the subscriber knows.  In other words, cable companies in particular know that in-market availability of games will cost them subscribers, revenue, and ultimately profits.  And they certainly don’t want that.

The restriction against viewing local games reaches epidemically ridiculous proportions in that it even includes a prohibition against watching out of market delayed broadcasts on the satellite and cable provider itself, or even “classic games” from decades before.  I live in Chicago, and I can’t view old Yankee classic games on YES, or Orioles classic games on MASN, because of the deal between MLB and distributors.  Why this is, I don’t know exactly―maybe it’s one of those things that distributors don’t really need, but like to have anyway just so they can negotiate away something not so important to retain the thing that is most important in cases like this―that most important thing being, of curse, live streaming of games to local markets.

But make no mistake: as much as Baseball and The  Networks want to make the product available to everyone everywhere, distributors have just as much desire to keep local viewers in the dark during local games.  Because they believe they have a very fat ox waiting to be gored when that happens, and unless some business arrangement or technical system is undertaken to address it, they have no interest in falling on that ox’s horns.

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.

Big Changes for Chicago Team Broadcasts

Two big stories have broken in the past week regarding the broadcast of games for Chicago baseball teams.

First, WGN America announced that they were dropping Cubs and White Sox broadcasts entirely, terminating with the end of the 2014 season.  WGN is the superstation that so many of us watched Cubs games on when we first got cable two or three decades ago.  WGN Superstation signed onto the a … or, cable … in 1978, and Cubs games were a staple of the schedule.  Lots of people between the ages of 30 and 45 remember coming home from school, flipping on the Superstation and hearing Harry Caray and Steve Stone (and sometimes Milo Hamilton, Thom Brennaman or DeWayne Staats) regaling viewers and seeing beauty shots of historic Wrigley Field.  It’s the sole reason many out of towners became Cubs fans in the first place.  In 1990 WGN started running the White Sox as well, and although many fewer non-Chicagoans became Sox fans as a result, it did provide them a national platform few other teams could claim.

But in the brave new world of new media, with MLB Extra Innings and MLB.TV at our easy disposal, WGN America has slipped into irrelevancy when considering on which channel to watch Cubs and White Sox games.   Despite that WGN America is running 71 Cubs game and 32 White Sox in 2014, the decision comes down to ratings.  That is, neither the Cubs nor Sox generate sufficient ratings to justify continuing to air them.  And so WGN America-slash-Superstation is focusing their efforts on another general audience basic cable network because, you know, we need another one of those.

Read more about this here:

WGN America to drop Chicago sports

Report: WGN America To Drop Cubs, Chicago Sports Programming

On the radio front, it’s the Cubs doing the dropping as they have informed WGN radio that they no longer wish to continue their 90-year marriage, with the Cubs moving to WBBM-AM starting in 2015. Itself a 50,000 watt station with multiple state coverage, in theory the Cubs should not lose anything in the way of listenership with the move.  But again, in this age of online radio coverage (especially through MLB’s super popular At Bat app) coupled with baseball games broadcast on satellite radio giant SiriusXM, it may not be an altogether relevant change.  Don’t feel too bad for WGN for getting shut out by the Cubs, though: they precipitated the move by exercising their contractual option to re-do the deal to keep the team on, because of low ratings brought on by a frankly terrible team that locals are losing interest in, in droves.

Read more about this move here:

Cubs dropping WGN Radio for WBBM-AM

One unintended effect of these two moves is that it completely screws up the Cubs anthem played in the ballpark whenever the team wins.  The song, “Go Cubs Go” by Steve , mentions WGN explicitly in the title, although to be fair, this anthem is already fouled up since it suggests that you can “catch [all the action] on WGN”, which hasn’t been true on the TV side of the house for twenty years now.

Radio move from WGN fouls up ‘Go, Cubs, Go’ anthem

 

SABR members, get 20% discount for 2014 MLB.TV subscription

If you’re a SABR member–and if you’re on this web page right now, there’s a pretty good chance you are–you are eligible for a 20% discount toward an MLB.TV premium monthly subscription.

Premium monthly subscribers can watch every 2014 Regular Season out-of-market game LIVE or on-demand in HD Quality, and can choose from home or away broadcasts, on many of the most popular devices such as iPhone, iPad, Android phones, Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation, regular old laptop and desktop computers, and more. With a premium subscription, you can watch up to four games at once with Mosaic, and take advantage of DVR functionality that lets you pause or rewind live games.

Interested?  Click the link or image below for more details:

SABR members, get 20% discount for 2014 MLB.TV subscription

(Please note that this is a discount off the monthly subscription and not the yearly subscription.)