If you don’t have cable TV, the baseball postseason doesn’t exist. Major League Baseball Advanced Media, the arm of the sport that controls its media presence, has locked down online access. Even as it advertises its At Bat app to view the playoff games online, it’s blacked out many of the games, presumably to protect the rights of the cable TV networks who have purchased them.
The league advertises “no blackouts for eligible MLB.TV subscribers.” What is an eligible subscriber? Someone who already has a cable TV package.
If we believe the tech reporters who document the cord-cutters who are getting by without cable TV or a copper-wired home (and I do) , it’s hard to see how this is good for the mass appeal of what is still known as the national pastime.
Granted there are still plenty of households who’ll fork over money to the Comcasts and CenturyLinks, but the logic still escapes me how tightening access to the sport’s finest hours has a long-term net benefit.
I thought of that today when reading this essay from baseball writer Doug Wilson in the Boston Globe.
It’s a lovely piece that documents this moment 40 years ago next Wednesday.
Right up until Jack Morris willed a Twins seventh-game World Series win in 1991, the sixth game of the 1975 World Series might well have been the single best World Series game ever played.
I drove home from college one night to watch it with my dad; the only time I ever watched a baseball game on TV with him.
That game, Wilson writes today, literally changed television sports.
It became the camera shot “heard round the television industry.” Before Game 6, there was no such thing as a reaction shot.
Cameramen followed the action, focusing on the trajectory of a hit ball or a thrown pass or a shot. Forever after, there would be the isolation shot, looking for the reaction of the athlete to what happened. The home run, coming when it did, in the classic venue, to end such a memorable game, with the stakes so high, was great by itself.
But when the public got a look at Fisk’s raw emotions, waving the ball, then exploding in joy, it became a classic, one of the most memorable and iconic shots in television sports history. “I’ve always wanted to find the rat and thank him,” director Harry Coyle told the Los Angeles Times in 1987.
The baseball postseason continues to change how the TV industry covers it. For more and more people, it covers it not at all.
That, the Royals Review blog writes accurately, is “ludicrous.”
We all know why this is. Sports broadcasts are still held hostage to cable/pay TV companies desperate to retain hold of one last slice of their crumbling empire. But the fact that even games broadcast on FOX (a station broadcasting free over public airwaves) cannot be legally be watched online for any price short of a full pay TV subscription, is ludicrous.
Personally, as an orderly sort who believes strongly in law and order, it frustrates me no end that foolish restrictions like that test my ethics and reward the very behavior MLB and its partners are trying to discourage.
In order to watch my team in the postseason online, I would have to break rules somewhere, either by changing my VPN or using someone else’s cable account or experimenting with pirate streams. There has GOT to be a better way to do this.