For people who don’t have cable TV, or who want to watch baseball games online even if they do, few rules were as frustrating as Major League Baseball’s blackout of local teams.
Fans could drop $120 for MLB’s streaming package, but if you tried to watch the Twins anywhere near the Twin Cities, the games were blacked out. It was a nod to Fox, which owns the local TV rights to half of MLB’s teams. It was a great deal if you followed out-of-market teams, but not so much if you were like most fans.
The blackout stems from a time when TV and only TV was the viable option to watch baseball, short of actually buying a ticket to a game.
That’s about to change. Major League Baseball announced today that it’s dropping the blackout restriction.
It’s unclear how this is all going to work in the post-blackout era.
In order to watch the games, you may have to be a subscriber to — in the case of Twins fans — Fox Sports North, a restriction that has allowed MLB to strong arm consumers into buying the appropriate cable TV package.
Even if you’re a cable TV customer, you won’t be able to watch the games on your smartphone through the MLB At Bat app. It will only be available via theFox Sports Go app. Again, it’s not clear if the games will be available on smartphones even with the app. The NFL, for example, allows Fox Sports Go to stream games, but not if the app is on a smartphone. Presumably, someone has to pay to see the games just as fans have to pay now to watch them with the At Bat app.
All of this anarchy comes from the FCC’s decision to lift blackout restrictions in general, and — probably — a lawsuit against the National Hockey League and MLB over the blackout policy, which carved the country up and assigned pieces of it to individual teams. That was a problem for people in Iowa, for example, because it’s within the broadcast territories of the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, and Minnesota Twins.
How ludicrous was MLB’s blackout policy? All San Francisco Giant and Oakland A’s games are blacked out in Guam, 5,796 miles away.
They still are. The Giants and A’s aren’t part of Thursday’s deal.