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Major League Baseball blackout policy

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Major League Baseball has rules for exclusive broadcasting, called 'blackout' rules, which bar certain areas from watching live games.[1]

Most blackouts are for two reasons: The first is local cable providers' desire for exclusive broadcasting. The second, MLB's desire to drive stadium attendance.[2] Select regular season games, special events, and postseason games will also be subject to exclusivity deals with, for example, networks like Fox owning the rights to afternoon MLB games on Saturdays and ESPN the same rights for night games on Sundays.

United States

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U.S.A. MLB Blackout map

Almost every part of the Contiguous United States has at least one team blacked out from watching, with some having more. As the map shows, every team has its local area (AKA home market) blackout. Beyond that, some teams have several surrounding states that are also blacked out. For example, the Kansas City Royals are blacked out from view in the state of Missouri (except in the St. Louis metro area), Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Iowa.[3]

The state with the most regional blackouts is Iowa, which is blacked out by six teams: Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Royals, Twins, and the White Sox, even though all are a multi-hour drive to see any of the teams in person.[4] Local broadcasts are not necessarily available in the whole blackout territory. For example, Bally Sports Wisconsin is unavailable in Iowa, so Milwaukee Brewers games are unavailable in the state. So not only can Iowa not get the Brewers on local channels, but they also can't get them on streaming due to being "in the market." Las Vegas is another example of fans having restricted viewership, as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland A’s San Diego Padres, and San Francisco Giants are all blacked out as well despite the fact that the closest teams’ stadiums are roughly 5 hours away.

Due to the fact that they play in Canada, the Toronto Blue Jays do not have any part of their blackout territory in the United States. However, some MLB teams have blackouts that extend into Canada.

ESPN Deal

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A new contract between ESPN and Major League Baseball in 2012 virtually eliminated local blackouts involving the network's Monday and Wednesday night games, allowing ESPN coverage to co-exist with that of the local broadcasters in home markets.[5] The agreement took effect at the start of the 2014 season and lasted until 2021.[6]

A contract extension between ESPN/MLB was struck in 2021, lasting until 2028.[7]

Apple TV Deal

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In March 2022 MLB and Apple signed a streaming deal worth $85 million annually. Through this streaming deal, Apple will broadcast a doubleheader every Friday, during the regular season on their streaming platform Apple TV+.[8]

Bally Sports bankruptcy

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Due to the parent company of the Bally Regional Sports network, Diamond Sports Group, applying for bankruptcy, there have been calls to end the blackout rule so that local fans can no longer rely on only cable providers to watch their teams' games.[9]

Canada

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Canadian regions subject to
  Toronto Blue Jays exclusively
  Shared with Seattle Mariners
  Shared with Minnesota Twins
  Shared with Boston Red Sox
Note: Toronto Blue Jays territory covers all of Canada

The Toronto Blue Jays' blackout territory includes all of Canada. However, they must share British Columbia and Alberta with the Seattle Mariners, Saskatchewan and Manitoba with the Minnesota Twins, and the Maritimes with the Boston Red Sox. In the past, the province of Quebec was not included in Toronto's territory, as it belonged to the Montreal Expos exclusively. Toronto and Montreal shared all territory outside of Ontario and Quebec. Toronto Blue Jays games are aired on Sportsnet in Canada. Also, Blue Jays games broadcast nationally over-the-air on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television network have occasionally been subject to local blackout on CBET-TV in Windsor, Ontario, to protect the territorial rights of the Detroit Tigers across the Detroit River. No American RSNs are available on Canadian specialty television providers.

Consumer devices

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Consumer devices that enable television subscribers to transmit their home television feed outside their host area to a remote location over the Internet, a practice called placeshifting, have drawn the ire of MLB. MLB's position is that subscribers who wish to watch MLB telecasts while traveling either settle for the local telecasts available or subscribe to MLB's own broadcasts for an additional fee. Consumer advocates insist the practice is legal since the remoted content is already purchased and is merely placeshifted by the subscriber; they claim MLB is asking fans to pay twice for the same content. MLB counters that travelers utilizing placeshifting technology are undercutting the blackout rights MLB grants to local and national broadcasters, as well as MLB's own internet service.[citation needed]

In 2009, MLB launched MLB Network on basic cable similar to the NFL Network. As part of the new network, MLB has told owners to reduce their blackouts due to outrage amongst fans and letters pouring into MLB's offices. In particular, MLB is looking to address the availability of regional sports networks outside teams' immediate home markets. Ostensibly, if teams/channels are not available in certain locations, teams could lose their claims to such areas and coverage would be replaced by the MLB-controlled Extra Innings service.[citation needed]

Radio blackouts

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In MLB, there are radio blackouts. ESPN Radio has exclusive rights to the World Series and only the flagship stations of the two participating ballclubs can originate coverage, though their broadcasts are also available on Sirius XM (as of April 2021, both on satellite radio and streaming[10]), as well as the subscription Gameday Audio package on MLB.com and MLB.tv. All other network affiliates of the two clubs must carry the ESPN Radio feed, and they may not even be able to do so if they compete with an ESPN Radio affiliate in the same market. Additionally, the two flagships must broadcast ESPN Radio national commercials during their game coverage (though they can run live commercial reads for local sponsors during broadcasts and sell ads during typically extended pre/post-game shows. WCNN, the Braves' flagship station, occasionally didn't air such national commercials and aired its normal local advertising during its coverage 2021 World Series, and also didn't credit ESPN's sponsorship). The flagship stations are also required to credit the same presenting radio sponsor of the World Series as ESPN Radio (in recent years, AutoZone).

Additionally, radio stations (including flagships) are not allowed to broadcast any MLB games in the live Internet streams of their station programming outside of the flagship station's DMA (example: WDAE, which is the Rays Radio Network flagship, is only allowed to stream its coverage within Pasco, Pinellas, and Hillsborough counties) or on out-of-market radio affiliates that carry the station's main signal. (MLB makes its own streams of the team networks available for a fee.) Some stations will replace the game with a recorded message explaining why the game cannot be heard on their stream. Others will simply stream the station's regularly scheduled programming that is being preempted by the game. Additionally, ESPN Radio also restricts online streaming of their coverage of regular season games to listeners located both within the United States and outside the markets of the teams involved in the games, regardless of the application used.

During the 2021 Postseason, the Atlanta Braves streamed its coverage of their entire postseason run completely free of geo-blocking restrictions, including their NLDS, NLCS, and World Series appearances.

See also

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References

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  1. ^ "MLB.TV | Blackout Policy". MLB.com. Retrieved May 1, 2024.
  2. ^ Rivera, Joe (March 28, 2023). "MLB blackout restrictions, explained: Map shows why you can't watch out-of-market baseball games in 2024". The Sporting News. Archived from the original on December 29, 2023. Retrieved May 1, 2024.
  3. ^ Zimmerman, Jeff (July 26, 2012). "Blackout Rules and the Royals". Royals Review. Retrieved May 2, 2023.
  4. ^ Diamond, Jared. "Baseball Isn't Heaven in 'Field of Dreams' Town. It's Blacked Out". WSJ. Retrieved May 2, 2023.
  5. ^ "ESPN Signs New Deal With MLB Through '21 Worth An Average Of $700M Annually". Sports Business Daily. August 28, 2012.
  6. ^ Weisman, Jon (August 28, 2012). "ESPN, MLB to extend deal". Variety. Retrieved May 2, 2023.
  7. ^ Polacek, Scott. "MLB, ESPN Announce New Broadcasting Contract Through 2028". Bleacher Report. Retrieved May 2, 2023.
  8. ^ Halicke, Chris (March 9, 2022). "MLB, Apple Announce Streaming Deal For Exclusive Friday Night Games". Si.com.
  9. ^ Stephanie, Apstein (February 1, 2023). "MLB Indicates It Could Produce Local TV Broadcasts and End Blackouts for Some Teams". Si.com.
  10. ^ "Sirius XM: Major League Baseball and SiriusXM Expand Agreement; Games Now Available to SiriusXM's Streaming-Only Subscribers" (Press release). SiriusXM. April 12, 2021. Retrieved April 13, 2021.