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Friday, June 04, 2004

MLB Extra Innings Sucks 

Like many transplanted New York Mets fans, and transplanted baseball fans in general, I forked over $169 to my local digital cable provider for the MLB Extra Innings package because, according to them, "Even if you live in one city and your team is in another, MLB EXTRA INNINGS let's you see the match-ups you want to watch." Well, there's a damn good match-up tonight, Saturday, and Sunday that I want to watch between the Mets and Marlins for first place in the NL East - - but I can't! This sucks. I guess I need to add Mets baseball to the list of NY related things I can't get while living out of town, like decent pizza, bagels and egg sandwiches.

At first I thought I was mired in one of the MLB package's various blackouts. Blackouts are "regional television restrictions distributed in order to protect the local television rights holder broadcasting the game." In other words, you don't get the game on the MLB package so that you are forced to watch the game on another channel. That makes sense and besides, what good would it be to have the same game on two channels. There are three types of blackouts. First, there are local blackouts, which effect you if you live within a Major League Baseball team's territory. The Yankees, for example, are blacked out all over the world because their annoying, bandwagon fans span the globe. Other teams are implicated when, for example, you live in and around New York City so you will not see Mets games on the MLB package but who cares, since you will see the games on MSG, FSNY or WPIX anyway. I'm not effected by this blackout since I live outside the Mets territory. The second type of blackout is the ESPN blackout. The world wide leader in sports purchased the rights to broadcast all mindless, annoying baseball commentary. Oh, sorry, wrong rant. ESPN purchased the rights to broadcast all Major League Baseball games on Sunday nights. This does not effect me for tonight's or this weekend's games either. The third type of blackout is the FOX blackout. Like ESPN on Sunday nights, FOX has the exclusive national rights to broadcast games up until 7:00 p.m. (ET) on Saturday. This does not effect tonight's or Sunday's games but the Saturday game falls within this window. So I can just watch the game on Fox's Saturday national broadcast, right? Wrong, because the powers that be assume I'm either a Philly or Braves fan (never!) and is force-feeding me that game.

Despite the three types of blackouts, only one, the Fox blackout, effects me and many others. So why can't we at least see the other two games? Apparently, while I can't find any mention of a reason or justification on the various websites, the MLB package does not carry local, over-the-air broadcasters like NY's WPIX, which is airing tonight's and Sunday's games. But why is this? Why do the local cable affiliates like FSNY and MSG find it advantageous to climb aboard MLB Extra Innings but the over-the-air stations do not? Us out of towners pose no threat to their local broadcasting rights just like we pose no threat to the cable affiliates' rights. To the contrary, allowing MLB Extra Innings to carry the over-the-air signal of their station, and more importantly their advertisers, would be expanding their market from only reaching a local audience to a national stage. Why can't the over-the-air stations simply allow their signal to be picked up by the MLB package and, like the cable operators, require a local blackout? Furthermore, it appears that both tonight's and Sunday's over-the-air Mets games are covered by the web-based MLB.tv, so why not MLB Extra Innings? To insure that I had access to all Mets games, was I not only supposed to buck up the $169 for MLB Extra Innings but also an extra $90 for MLB.tv? Jeez, I'm a die hard Mets fan but my six figure student loan has other plans for that money. I'm sure there's some illogical/greedy/money/legal/technical-driven reason behind this, but, just like this weekend's Mets games, I just don't see it.
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