Saturday, August 22, 2009

FOX And MLB Have A Negative Effect On My Quality Of Life

I didn't get to actually watch the Dodgers-Cubs game, of course. Nationally televised games on FOX are completely blacked out if the network chooses to show another game in your market.

So instead of having my choice between Dodgers-Cubs on FOX and Yankees-Red Sox on YES, I only got the local match-up on network TV because YES wasn't allowed to show the Yankees. It's a ridiculous way of doing business - not at all surprising, considering that the decision is being made by executives at FOX and MLB.

One can't reasonably expect a national television network to act in anything other than its own interests when putting together its programming schedule. FOX, of course, has only two gods - ratings and advertising dollars. The network's exclusivity deal steals games from the local cable affiliates and forces fans in baseball markets to watch teams they can watch every other day of the week - but that's not FOX's problem.

That's why, here in New York, I get eight Yankee games and eight Met games on Saturday afternoons in the summer. New York fans with cable TV already get to watch every single game that the Yankees and the Mets play. Believe me, it's no extra treat to get 16 of those games called by FOX's national broadcast teams.

There's a simple solution to all this. FOX can simply take the two or three games a week it broadcasts in its exclusive window and televise a game in every market involving teams they wouldn't usually have a chance to see. That means that, in markets that have one of the teams playing in those games, FOX offers the local game back to the local cable outlet (usually a FOX affliliate anyway) and televises one of the other games.

That way, the New York fan could've had a choice between two games today. FOX's ratings in New York would've been lower, but the baseball fan would've benefitted. Take a wild guess what is more important to Major League Baseball.

It is MLB that's more at fault here. In their quest to get every last dollar from the network television deal, the league office put profits ahead of fans and promoting the sport. Again, this is no surprise - MLB is the only professional sports league that still clings to blackout restrictions that govern which games can be broadcast in certain markets.

One of the best things about the new MLB Network has been the ability to watch out-of-market games without paying for the MLB Extra Innings package (which is only the biggest sports rip-off this side of Personal Seat Licenses.) It's a rare sensible move from the league office, one that you wish would eventually extend to how it does business with network partners.

1 comment:

Anona Moose said...

I've struggled with this issue for years. I'm not sure who is more to blame - FOX requiring a national blackout of almost all non-FOX broadcast games until Saturday evening, or MLB for complying with this restriction.

One day MLB will realize they are only shooting themselves in the foot. So I can watch 2 teams on a Saturday afternoon whom I have no interest in. If my team was on, I'd probably sit and watch, because it's saturday, I just finished mowing the lawn and I don't have a million things to do like I do all week when I miss most games from being too busy. But, because they are more interested in their license agreements than keeping their fans, my interest in them has waned.

It's not only the viewership on TV the MLB is hurting with this deal. People are more inclined to actually go to see games if they are in the afternoon - day games have an allure about them that a night game (which you can catch on any day of the week) doesn't. Because of the FOX deal, and MLB's incessant profit seeking, they have moved most early Saturday afternoon games to late afternoon/evening just so they can still broadcast them on TV. Just today (Saturday 10/3), there are only 3 games before 4pm. Tomorrow, which FOX does not own, there are 11 games before 4PM. I wonder why most games are day games - does ESPN have a Sunday night baseball blackout deal with MLB as well?