MLB: Why It Makes Economic Sense To Loosen Up On Game Blackouts

MLB's Misdirected Blackout Policy

MLB’s policy to blackout televised home team games is misdirected and counterproductive. The policy needs to be relaxed, and here’s why…

MLB’s Extra Innings package offers a lot to fans at a sensible cost for fans who wish to tune into games across America. But it’s also a steal from subscribers in another sense because home team games are blacked out.

The theory put forth by MLB as a reason for blacking out these games is that if TV is offered as an alternative to attending a game, fans will choose to stay home, thus impairing a team’s major source of revenue (tickets, concessions, parking, etc.).

Baloney. First of all, how many games a year does the average fan attend – a handful, at most? To attend a game is a premeditated decision made by fans, usually well in advance of the game itself, and it has nothing to do with a team’s televised schedule.

MLB: Back Up What You Say, Commissioner

MLB: Yippee, a bit of cheese to fans
MLB: Yippee, a bit of cheese to fans

When he gets on his bully-pulpit, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is always talking about “growing the game” – reaching out to minorities, youngsters, women, etc., by exposing the game and making it an easy reach.

How non-sensical is it then for MLB to automatically wipe out a significant portion of TV viewers?

When MLB airs a game – say the Chicago Cubs – the broadcast is the Cubs broadcast of the game – it’s not an MLB production.

This means that all commercials (drawing revenue) are aired complete, and profits belong and stay with the local affiliate.

For example, YES (Yankees) and SNY (Mets) are the two authorized carriers for televised games in the area where I live. All of their games are blacked out by MLB.

Look before you leap - and blackout restrictions still apply
Look before you leap – and blackout restrictions still apply

Mets and Yankee’s fans have the option of subscribing to a satellite or cable company that carries YES and SNY, but many of these companies choose not to include these outlets due to the exorbitant fees charged.

Largely through season-ticket sales, neither the Mets nor Yankees have a problem drawing fans to their games. In 2019, the last full year of baseball, the Yankees ranked third in attendance with 3.3 million, and the Mets drew 2.4 million – and all of their local games were blacked out then as well.

Small-market teams lose as well. Fans of the Kansas City Royals, for instance, often live in rural areas that are hours away from the ballpark, making it a chore with plenty of cash out of pocket to attend a game. Yet, they would (if they could) watch a televised Royals game, replete with commercials.

If there is a counterargument, I’d like to know about it because otherwise, it seems to me MLB’s Blackout Policy is making a big mistake but shutting out fans instead of drawing them in.

Soon, ballparks across America will be released from COVID restrictions so they can be at 100% capacity. Attendance, with corresponding revenue, will rise or maintain past levels as it always does.

Oh, Woe Is Me…And You?

You may realize I have a personal grudge here, but I trust I speak for others as well.

Later, the Mets will play a night game against the San Diego Padres in what is expected to be a hotly contested four-game series that is critical to both teams.

Jacob deGrom will go against Yu Darvish in what is likely to be a preview of who wins this year’s, Cy Young.

I can’t watch the game being televised by SNY, and that angers me.

To reiterate, though, if Rob Manfred means to grow the game, he’s missing the boat by continuing MLB’s policy of blacking out a spectacle like the about to be played at Petco Park. Just saying…

Here’s What Readers Are Saying…

Lynn Rose Sorbara I agree… Most especially now when it is difficult to get to the games in person!

Ben Grippi This is the only sport that actively limits the potential viewership across numerous mediums. They’re also destroying the on-field product with ridiculous rule changes. MLB needs a lot of help. (Hear, Hear! – Author’s Comment)

Joan Wulterin No surprise! I can’t see any Rays games here in FL! Told sell them. As a fan of course I don’t like it

Steven Kenworthy You would think these major sports leagues would make it easier for fans to access their games, instead, greed gets in the way and fans get left out in the cold.

Allan Mounce The notion of a blackout restriction to me is anti-consumer, probably a cultural difference thing as we don’t tend to do that here in the UK, but it’s a crazy notion. From a finance perspective, even the cheapest tickets would be a significant enough cost to cut the number of people who’d be able to afford it, for others work & other commitments rule it out! Can only say this, I’ve never once looked at a TV schedule & let it rule if I go to a game & for the most part, I tend to go to games that are being broadcast on TV!

Frank Tedeschi You totally missed the boat, Steve. The blackouts have absolutely nothing to do with attendance. YES makes their money by charging rights fees to companies like Spectrum. They get paid something like $4 per subscriber per month. If they have ten million subscribers that are 40 million dollars a month. Of course, they are going to block out the MLBTV. Author’s Response: I understand this, but that doesn’t set aside MLB stepping in to end blackouts, as they do in other areas overruling other interests, in “the best interests of the game.”

Heidi Stout MLB blackouts punish fans who do not have the financial means to attend games. Between tickets, parking, tolls if applicable, and refreshments, attending a live game can be a budget-buster for a family.

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Steve Contursi
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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.