Category Archives: Cable TV

Two Great Broadcasting Moments from Yesterday’s Fanless Ballgame

 

With all the ink and pixels spilled about yesterday’s White Sox-Orioles game, which even non-baseball fans know by now spectators were not allowed to attend for safety concerns*, you just had to know there were going to be some unique moments in broadcasting the game.  And of course there were.  Here are two of them:

Gary Thorne, long time broadcasting for multiple sports and currently the Orioles play by play guy for MASN, took the opportunity to goof around by announcing one of the hitters as though it were a televised golf match:

On the Sox’ side of the booth, Hawk Harrelson’s suitably subdued call for the O’s Chris Davis home run in the first inning was quiet enough that, given the overall quietude of the unpopulated ballpark, you can actually hear Thorne’s excited home run call from the booth next door:

You can’t make this stuff up, and fortunately, I don’t have to.  Thank you, Internet.

 

* – Although closing off the game to the public was an understandable and defensible call to make at the time, made while the violence of the protests was in full swing, by game time the streets were mostly quiet, and the area around the ballpark seemed safe enough to the few dozen or hundreds of onlookers that took in the game from outside a locked gate.

CBS Sports Net to Air Minor League Baseball Again for 2015

CBS Sports Network, the cable sports arm of the Tiffany net, aired fifteen minor league games during 2014, their first season doing so. They must have gotten something positive out of it, although maybe not a whole lot.  They’re returning to the minor league well again for 2015, but this time for only ten games.  Not a ringing endorsement, but it will give them an opportunity to fill vast spaces of air time with something live.

Minor league baseball is a hard sell on its own terms, since it is by definition “minor”.  It’s certainly not the best baseball you can see—the best can be easily seen practically every night between early April and late October, as many as 15 games in a single day.  But minor league ball is interesting to those people who are very interested in top prospects.  It’s an opportunity to see the stars of tomorrow performing in their embryonic stages today.

CBSSN’s schedule acknowledges that fact, as the schedule is heavy on teams with top prospects such as the Chicago Cubs’ AAA (Iowa) and AA (Tennessee) squads, the LA Dodgers’ AA (Tulsa) team, and the Pirates’ AA (Altoona) affiliate, teams that are all stocked with top 20 prospects, according to MLB.  Of course, these prospects may or may not still be with these clubs by the time the broadcasts roll around, but the presence of such prospects as of today probably factored into CBSSN’s decision to select these games for broadcast.

Here is the full schedule for the season, subject to change I would assume:

• May 28: El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres) at Round Rock Express (Rangers), 8 p.m. EST
• June 4: Salt Lake Bees (Angels) at Nashville Sounds (Athletics), 8 p.m. EST
• June 11: Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Royals) at Tulsa Drillers (Dodgers), 8 p.m. EST
• June 18: Mississippi Braves (Braves) at Tennessee Smokies (Cubs), 7 p.m. EST
• June 25: Toledo Mud Hens (Tigers) at Durham Bulls (Rays), 7 p.m. EST
• July 9: Frisco RoughRiders (Rangers) at Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Royals), 8 p.m. EST
• July 16: Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals) at Iowa Cubs (Cubs), 8 p.m. EST
• July 23: Altoona Curve (Pirates) at Akron RubberDucks (Indians), 7 p.m. EST
• July 30: Lexington Legends (Royals) at Greenville Drive (Red Sox), 7 p.m. EST
• August 6: El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres) at Albuquerque Isotopes (Rockies), 9 p.m. EST

Statcast Debuted Last Night, but It’ll Be a While Before It Really Matters.

Yes, very essential, but what does this all mean? (h/t Fangraphs)

The actual Statcast tool has been around for a little over a year now, and we’d seen snippets of it here and there since then, particularly during last year’s World Series.  However, yesterday’s Cardinals/Nationals game on MLB Network was the first in which Statcast was used throughout a game as a device fully integrated into a game broadcast.

The tool, which is being audaciously touted as “one of the largest advances in instant replay that we’ve seen in the last 50 years“, is intended as a way for us to finally quantify the game in a way which is impossible to do with the naked eye: completely, even exhaustively. With multiple HD cameras set up in each of the 30 major league parks, providing a complete view of the field and its adjacent environs, and connected to a system that will immediately spit out all the related data accurate to a fraction of an inch, absolutely action, no matter how small, will be left unseen and free from analysis from this point forward.

And that’s a good thing, right? Well, that depends on how you view the game of baseball.

The real constituents of the system, the major league teams themselves, will absolutely love this tool.  By being able to analyze and quantify every movement made by every player on the field, they will be able to evaluate their own players in context against all other players in the majors at that time, and should be able to properly value their performance as it occurs during live game action.  This should in theory help them more accurately determine what they should be paying their talent.  I’m pretty sure that as the cost of this system drops over time, organizations will be arranging Statcast systems to be set up at their minor league affiliates’ facilities as well.

The players themselves will benefit or be penalized versus the prior expectations of them that had been set for them under less perfect observational or statistical methods.

As for the fans, StatCast is sure to drive a yet deeper wedge between the “sabers” and the traditionalists.  The former group will welcome this development with open arms and spreadsheets; the latter will likely moan that one more nail has been driven into the coffin of baseball as the game of romanticism, poetry, and whatever other ethereal qualities define for them the pastime they love.

As for me, I like that the data are now being made available during broadcasts, but I am more looking forward to the day that we can review the results within the proper context of league norms.  Since we are in the infant stage of the technology, analysis of the data is very immature.  All we have at the moment are raw numbers and the inevitable SWAGs that will follow in their wake, at least in the short term.

Here’s what I mean: in the middle GIF above, Jon Jay’s first step to get to that batted ball was timed at 0.3 seconds, his top speed was clocked at 14.8 MPH, and the distance he covered was measured at 31.8 feet.  To which I ask: are these good numbers?  Is his first step better than average?  Average?  Worse than average?  Same with his speed and distance: are these results good, bad, or so-so?  I have no way of knowing this yet.  You probably don’t, either. These are just numbers so far.  I mean, sure, Jay caught the ball, but does that mean that he necessarily has an earlier first step and/or faster top speed and/or greater distance-covering ability than average? Of course it doesn’t, because we don’t know what those averages are yet. Maybe Jay was just lucky this time that the ball was hit near enough to him for him to reach it.

You can see that I have acknowledged that because we are in Statcast’s infancy, we don’t have this context available to us yet, so I am in no way making an unrealistic demand that I be provided this context, like, yesterday. But I think I can safely say that until enough data to provide this context are gathered, the information will be more like “somewhat interesting” than it will be “really useful”.  It will probably be a while before we get to that point, likely measured in years, but until we do, I have limited interest in the Statcast data, at least as of April 22, 2015.

I do hope, though, that as with HITf/x and PITCHf/x data, StatCast data are made available outside of MLB organizations, if not freely available to the public, then at least on a licenseable basis in which websites such BrooksBaseball.net can obtain it, dissect it and disseminate at least filtered versions of the it to the public.  That’s the really the only way the data will be meaningful to fans who are interested in it.  Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of numbers.

In the end, MLB may well be right that this will be “one of the largest advances in instant replay that we’ve seen in the last 50 years.”  If that turns out to be true, I think it will take a few years before any of us see that to be the case.

 

Visionary 1971 Article about the Future of Sports on Cable TV

Committee member Philip Hochberg, public announcer extraordinaire who worked the games for the Washington Senators from 1962 until they high-tailed out of town for Texas after the 1970 season, was also a prescient journalist in his spare time.  “Prescient”, I say, because as far back as 1971, he saw the cables sports revolution on the horizon, and penned this piece below for the Sporting News’ July 3 edition that year.

This was eight years before the Entertainment Sports and Programming Network signed on, and several more years than that before regional sports networks became the norm for the broadcasting of professional sports. You can tell it was a long time ago because Hochberg notes that cable is booming because there are already “nearly five million persons [being] served by [cable].”  At the time, that made only about 2.5% of all Americans.  Today, about 89% of all American households are served by either cable or other “alternate delivery systems” such as satellite.

Much of the article delves into how the FCC was attempting to wrestle with how to regulate the infant cable TV industry from poaching activity, in order to protect over-the-air broadcasters of marquee events, such as the World Series, that had traditionally run free over the air.  We also learn how the desire of small-city cable TV operators to run professional sports programming, especially major league baseball, influenced them to choose to air distant big city TV stations over local stations that presumably aired the same national networks.

One of the best fun facts I learned from reading this article is that in 1971, TelePrompTer Corporation, having divested itself of its actual teleprompter business, was the largest cable TV operator in the country.  TelePrompTer later sold out to Westinghouse broadcasting, and their cable holding was renamed Group W Cable.

Fascinating stuff. Click on the article below to open up in a new tab or window for easier reading.

 

Cable TV Offers Expanded Medium for Sports Sporting News 1971

Will Hosting on Fox Sports Baseball Help Get Pete Rose Reinstated?

It was announced this past Saturday afternoon that Pete Rose had been hired by Fox Sports to be a guest analyst on the MLB pregame shows airing on the broadcast network and on Fox Sports 1, as well as being a commentator on several other Fox baseball programs. Since Fox Sports is not part of Major League Baseball—at least not technically—Rose’s permanent ineligibility status does not extend to its game broadcasts.

“No, I am not Elton John. Why the hell are you asking me that!?”
View image | gettyimages.com

 

In the FoxSports.com article that broke the story, “Rose said that he is not joining FOX with the idea that it will help him gain reinstatement.  ‘I don’t even worry about that. I’ve never thought about that,’ Rose said. “I’m just trying to give back to baseball …'”

If that sounds disingenuous to you, don’t blame yourself for being a nasty person not willing to give poor Pete the benefit of the doubt. Pete Rose is, after all, a proven liar when it comes to how his gambling behavior interfaced with his roles as an active performer either playing or managing in major league baseball contests.  At first he claimed he never bet on baseball games he was involved in.  But then he said that he had indeed done so, but admitted such only once he believed that coming clean would help his case for reinstatement. But hey, don’t worry, Rose says: I never bet on my team to lose.

We’ll never know the truth about that one, though, since Baseball agreed to halt its continuing investigation of Rose once he agreed to accept the permanent ineligibility penalty for the involvement he did admit to.  In the final analysis, Pete struck out with his delayed honesty strategy.

I suspect the last couple of paragraphs read as though I am anti-Pete Rose. I’m really not, as far as it goes.  It’s true I’m not a fan of the guy—never have been. Maybe that’s why I’m not clamoring for his reinstatement as are so many of my age peers who grew up with Charlie Hustle as their #1 baseball hero. I do recognize, though, that other things being equal, a man with his on-field résumé should receive a slam-dunk, first-ballot induction into the Hall of Fame. Other things are decidedly not equal, though, and a Hall of Fame induction can’t happen for Rose until Baseball reinstates him.

And despite that Rob Manfred has said that he be taking “a full and fresh look” at the Pete Rose case, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict, right now, that there is no way Manfred, or any number of his successors, ever reinstate Rose. I believe that the only way Baseball can reinstate Pete is if they change the rules and start allowing players and managers to bet on baseball games they are involved in. But as long as they intend to keep the rules intact, they have to keep him out.

(There is a third alternative: keep the rule intact for everyone except Pete. Baseball would have to explain why they are making an exception for Pete, though, and they definitely don’t want any part of that.)

I get why a lot of people want Pete Rose in, and I am sympathetic to their argument that after 25 years, Pete Rose has suffered enough and should be reinstated so he can take his rightful place in the Hall of Fame.  But even granting that, I have no sympathy for Pete Rose himself, because since 1921 or thereabouts, posted in every major league clubhouse is rule 21(d):

BETTING ON BALL GAMES.  Any player, umpire, or club official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform shall be declared
ineligible for one year.

Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.

This is as clear and unambiguous as it gets.  Bet on a game you’re not involved in: one-year ban.  Bet on a game you are involved in: permanent ineligibility.  Not a “lifetime ban”.  But permanent ineligibility.

Pete Rose and his supporters might have a case if his penalty had been applied capriciously or dictated by personal fiat.  Neither is the case. The penalty is written in plain black and white and was posted in the clubhouse for Pete to see during every one of the 3,562 games he played in and the 785 games he managed in.  No one can claim ignorance of either the rule or its consequences, least of all Pete himself.

To reinstate Pete Rose would be to open up every other case of permanent ineligibility handed down for gambling on baseball games in which the baseballer had a duty to perform, including the eight men put out for the Black Sox scandal. That might suit many people just fine, perhaps including many of our friends on the Black Sox Scandal Committee, but it would also call into question how Baseball can maintain such penalty for future infractions.  They couldn’t, of course, so they would have to take a considerable amount of time and effort to debate what an alternative proper penalty should be.

Pete Rose Baseball
                  I know you are, Pete. I know.

Such a debate, in addition to an actual reinstatement of Rose, would dominate the baseball headlines for years afterwards, casting a pall on the sport, including on all the current games that Baseball is working so hard to market to fans so they can continuing reaping their annual billions in revenue and profits. All this while trying to maintain, with a straight face, that the competitive integrity of the game of baseball is now as ever above reproach, even as they ease up on the strictures and penalties against players and coaches gambling on games they are involved in.

Given that, why on Earth would Major League Baseball ever reinstate Pete Rose?  Besides creating a lot of noise around the game for years and years, what’s in it for them?  Where is the “there” there?

I don’t think there is a “there” there.  Baseball depends on the goodwill of not only its fan base and corporate sponsors, but of Congress, the guarantor of its precious Sherman antitrust exemption. Because although the exemption is worth billions to Baseball, it also gives Congress the right to stick its nose in Baseball’s business when it feels like it.  And the last thing Baseball wants, or needs, is congressional oversight in the wake of its weakening its stance on in-game gambling by people in a position to affect the game’s outcome. Just give us our antitrust exemption, please, and you won’t hear a peep out of us.  We promise to be good boys.

I just can’t see any other alternative for Baseball, regardless of how well Pete Rose does in his new broadcast gig on Fox.  If they want to continue to limit the amount of noise surrounding the game and keep Congress, the majority of fans, its corporate sponsors and random moralists at bay, I don’t see any other practical choice for them but to deny Pete Rose’s request for reinstatement yet again, now and probably forever.

Old Faces In New Places Dot 2015 Broadcasting Landscape

Regardless of what market you’re in, there’s a lot of baseball at your disposal this week in one of the two free preview weeks of MLB Extra Innings. Of course, as I started writing this, two of the six games in progress were in rain delays, to say nothing of blackouts (sorry, Iowa), so your mileage may vary.

In Bill James’s Historical Baseball Abstract, he uses the abbreviation S.O.C., Same Old Cities, to describe the places where the game was played from 1903 to 1952. Even though the teams didn’t move, the game continued to evolve, however. The part about moving is true again in 2015, but the state of broadcasting has evolved in several places as well.

Following the rule that it’s not plagiarism if you cite your sources, below are several places where that has been the case. Numbers in parentheses indicate the number of national games each announcer has called entering the season, taken from SABR’s national telecast database.

In Chicago, the Cubs leave longtime radio home WGN 720, breaking a 62-year run on that station to jump 60 kHz up the dial to WBBM 780. Judd Sirott, who had handled the fifth inning of play-by-play since 2009, stayed at WGN rather than switching stations with the team. From what I’ve heard in the spring, color man Ron Coomer is calling that inning, although TV voice Len Kasper (2) did so on Opening Night.

Kasper and Jim Deshaies (9) are no longer plying their trade for a national audience as WGN America dropped Chicago sports this winter. The Cubs took a package of 24 games to ABC affiliate WLS, and both Chicago teams moved their WGN overflow from independent WCIU to WPWR (MyNetwork TV).

In the Metroplex, Rangers radio moves from KESN 103.3 to KRLD 105.3. The Rangers had two previous stints on KRLD, 1972-73 and 1995-2012, although major portions of those stints were at 1080 on the AM dial. Orioles radio broadcasts shift from WBAL 1090 back to WJZ 95.7, where they had been from 2007-10.

The Mets add Wayne Randazzo from low-A Kane County to replace Seth Everett as pre- and postgame radio host. If Randazzo adds fill-in play-by-play duties when Howie Rose (2) is with the Islanders or Josh Lewin (274) with the Chargers, he would usurp Ed Coleman.

Kevin Burkhardt (3) leaves Mets TV for Fox, and he’s succeeded by Steve Gelbs. SNY also signs Cliff Floyd, who had been at MLB Network. Elsewhere in the N.L. East, Jamie Moyer leaves Phillies TV to spend more time with his family. Ben Davis replaces him.

Gabe Kapler (2) leaves Fox for the Dodgers’ front office. Dusty Baker (10) will start drawing paychecks from Fox, as will Raul Ibanez. Carlos Pena and Pedro Martinez join MLB Network. Barry Larkin (8) exits ESPN.

The couple dozen Yankees games that aren’t on YES in New York move from WWOR (MyNetwork TV) to WPIX (CW).

Jeff Levering moves from AAA Pawtucket to the Brewers’ radio booth. When Bob Uecker (147) is off, Joe Block assumes the main role and Levering the #2 spot, doing three innings of PBP (the Brewers typically don’t do much in the way of color commentary). When “Ueck” works, Block fills the #2 position and Levering “will provide video, photo, audio and written content for Brewers.com and various other Brewers social media platforms.”

Speaking of aging legends, Vin Scully (273) is also back in the radio booth for his age-87 season in Los Angeles. When Scully works, Charley Steiner (84) and Rick Monday (1) call the final six innings on radio: when he does not, Steiner joins Orel Hershiser (226) and Nomar Garciaparra (55) on TV and Monday calls the radio action with Kevin Kennedy (145).

Eric Chavez replaces Shooty Babitt on Oakland television for 20 or so games. I think this is unfortunate, because it greatly reduces the number of opportunities I have to type “Shooty Babitt.” On the radio side, Roxy Bernstein steps in for Ken Korach, who’s having knee problems, for the first couple of weeks.

Jack Morris (1) (last at Fox Sports North) and Kirk Gibson (7) (former Diamondbacks manager) join Fox Sports Detroit to occasionally spell Rod Allen (16). This author will now join Morris and Gibson in their endeavor: R-o-d A-l-l-e-n.

And now, leaving that tangent aside, we return to our rundown.

At the national level, ESPN returns its Sunday Night Baseball crew of Dan Shulman (364), John Kruk (64) and Curt Schilling (14). Dave O’Brien (448), the most-tenured active national announcer not named Buck, returns to Monday nights with Aaron Boone (129) and either Mark Mulder (22) or Dallas Braden. O’Brien’s old partner Rick Sutcliffe (433) joins Doug Glanville (24) and Jon Sciambi (93) on Wednesday. Since ESPN has the budget to assemble a 25-man roster of its own, we’ll likely also see cameos from Sean McDonough (172), Steve Levy (7), Dave Flemming (4), Karl Ravech (30), Chris Singleton (24), and several other people.

Fox’s lead trio of Joe Buck (515), Harold Reynolds (88) and Tom Verducci (124) returns for its second season, joined by Ken Rosenthal (326), who has reported from the field more than the second- and third-most common field reporters combined. The Fox stable also includes Joe Davis (2), who was in elementary school when Buck called his first World Series, Mariners radio voice Aaron Goldsmith, Justin Kutcher (29), Matt Vasgersian (163) and network standbys Thom Brennaman (363) and Kenny Albert (347). On the analyst side, Ibanez is joined by C.J. Nitkowski (8), John Smoltz (166), and Eric Karros (184).

MLB Network’s showcase games feature Vasgersian or Bob Costas (354) with Smoltz and/or Jim Kaat (184). As I finish this post, their first game of the season is in a light-failure delay.

TBS will return with a package of Sunday night games in the second half of the season using talent that has not been announced.

And most importantly, night after night, from now till the end of October, baseball is back.

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.

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

View image | gettyimages.com

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

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.