For a sport that has been struggling to retain youthful viewers, blackouts are an incredibly dumb aspect of streaming games. You can watch any team you want to...except the teams near where you live. Throughout most of Nevada, the San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Dodgers, L.A. Angels, San Francisco Giants, and Oakland Athletics are all blacked out. In Iowa, the Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, and St. Louis Cardinals are all out of the question. That’s a travesty! In a day and age where fewer and fewer people are subscribing to cable, Major League Baseball had an amazing opportunity to garner more viewers via MLB.TV, yet for years, they’ve managed to infuriate their loyal fans and annoy anyone interested in getting into baseball as a whole. Thankfully, MLB seems to be learning from its mistakes.
Per reports, MLB is seeking to end blackouts in the near future. HARK! Legends spoke of a day when baseball would change for the better, and since they still don’t know how to market their biggest stars, continue to promote absolute disparity among rich and poor markets, and find new ways to promote cheating every season, removing blackouts is a small, but crucial first step toward improved marketing from MLB.
Of course, the biggest obstacle between the fans and a glorious MLB streaming experience has always been local TV partners, who survive on fans watching their local broadcasts. As I’ve already said though, streaming is far preferable to most fans. A plan to prevent massive losses for these partners has yet to be announced. However, MLB recently hired longtime sports regional network executive Billy Chambers in order to figure out a course of action.
Obviously, this is a fantastic move for MLB to make. With the shift being banned starting in 2023, and robot umpires coming to baseball in the near future (In AAA ballparks this upcoming season). It’s not hard to imagine a world where offense across MLB sees a large resurgence. That would be the best time to introduce new fans to the sport. Longtime fans will appreciate the increase in scoring, while new fans will be enticed by more hits, more people on base, and more high-stakes moments. Without streaming options for local teams, those new fans would have fewer opportunities to attach to a team, a brand, or a local player that their friends likely root for as well. Although I struggle to see a future where local TV stations aren’t royally screwed by this news, this is a good, if not long overdue change for MLB.