Why MLB Blackout Rules Need to End Now

Sometimes I think that MLB.tv is the greatest invention ever. However, it can never, ever, ever really take that prize while the inane MLB Blackout rules stay in place. For those of you unfamiliar with this concept, MLB will “blackout” all home and away games for people trying to dare watch the games on the internet via MLB.tv. I think the idea is twofold: (1) blacking out the games is required due to cable deals with regional networks and (2) blacking out games will get people to buy tickets to see the games instead. Both of these lines are nuts because, for reason (1), many people with MLB.tv are not likely to be cable subscribers as well. As for reason (2), how many people do you know that think “the game’s not on TV? I guess I’ll spend $100 to see it live.”

If you’ve never seen the MLB Blackout map, prepare to laugh.

So, if you live in the following cities, which teams are you not allowed to see ANY games on MLB.tv?

  • Boston, MA: Red Sox (reasonable)
  • Rochester, MN: Twins, Brewers (hmmm)
  • Klamath Falls, OR: Mariners, A’s and Giants (well, huh, that’s weird)
  • Charlotte, NC: Orioles, Nationals, Reds and Braves (Yes, all those Reds fans in … Charlotte?)
  • Des Moines, IA: [the colors blind me]: Cubs, White Sox, Twins, Brewers, Royals, Cardinals, Ham Fighters, Logicians

That is only a smattering of the fun if you examine this map in detail.

This all got me wondering – just how far away can you get from a team and still be blacked out? I tried some different combinations and here are some fun distances to consider (first number is straight line distance, second is driving distance):

  • 356/442 miles: Charlotte, NC is blacked out of all Baltimore Orioles games
  • 409/491 miles: Reva, SD is black out of all Colorado Rockies games
  • 457/567 miles: Eudora, AR is blacked out of all Kansas City Royals games
  • 542/735 miles: Clayton, NM is blacked out of all Arizona Diamondbacks games
  • 562/720 miles: Mobile, AL is blacked out of all Miami Marlins games

And the record for the continental US

  • 834/1,065 miles: Wibaux, MT is black out for all Seattle Mariners games

Jeff Sullivan of Lookout Landing pointed out that if you leave the friendly confines of the North American continent, Hawaii enjoys black outs of all Giants, A’s, Padres and Mariners games as well. Hawaii is a mere 2,725 miles from Sodo Mojo, so those crafty MLB plutocrats know that people can just hop a Hawaiian air flight to Seattle to catch a game. The Mariners have it good, though, as Alaska is also part of the team’s designated blackout zone, so those of you in Point Barrow only have 1,926 miles to fly (if you want to drive to the game, you’re out of luck – Google Maps tells me “We could not calculate directions between Point Barrow, AK and Seattle, WA.”)

So, there you have it. MLB loves money, but instead of loving all money equally, they love the money from big cable corporations more than fan money, so we’re stuck with insane blackout rules. What can we do about it? Nothing, because MLB is exempt from antitrust rules so they can do whatever they want as the owners eat caviar out of Bud Selig’s loafers on the decks of their yachts.

Enjoy the game (if MLB lets you).