Last Week, we discussed the absurdity of MLB.TV’s Blackout system. I read a bunch of comments and saw some really insightful stuff. For instance, I never really thought of MLB.TV as a product/service that is more-or-less exclusively for people who have moved away from their home town fore business, family, schooling, etc. It makes a lot more sense when you think of it that way.
The problem with that philosophy is that I Qualify for that. Origionally from Saint Petersburg, I moved to Orlando. If you’re unfamiliar with the geography of florida, thats approximately 2 hours from St. Pete. I hear you North-Easterners scoffing. “only 2 hours? It takes me more than 3 for me to get out of the Bronx.” I know, I know; but Florida has a different mentality when it comes to distance and travel time than some of the larger cities or towns located in the planes and farmlands of middle America. because our cities are so spread out, they tend to become compartmentalized within themselves; for instance both ‘Kissimmee’ and ‘Lake Mary’ are both considered part of the ‘Orlando Drive Market’, but they are on oposite ends with about a dozen other ‘cities/neighborhoods/compartments’ between them. What I’m trying to say is that even though they’re only 40 minutes from each other we consider them to be ‘far’ from each other. We rely exclusively on private transportation as our public transportation is still stuck somewhere in the mid 60′s and that will probably be another blog post entirely in the future.
Anywho, Moving on. What I’m trying to say is that I qualify as part of the intended audience for MLB.TV; a young professional who has moved out of town & cut the cable cord but still wants to follow his favorite team. The problem is, I haven’t moved far away enough. Had I just moved To Boise Idaho, I probably wouldn’t be discussing this.
Before I continue, I also know there are proxy workarounds and all sorts of other ways I can trick MLB.TV into thinking I’m streaming from Boise Idaho, but that’s not the point. Yes, this is an argument over principle, albeit a losing one at that.
For the most part, I understand how these exclusive broadcasting contracts work. I understand why they are the way they are. The MLB (and any other sports league) auctions off who gets broadcasting rights for that network to generate ad revenue. I get that. And I understand that those networks don’t want to lose any potential revenue. I think this is part of a greater conversation that the world needs to be having; and that is a conversation about Copyrights and their accessibility.
Some colleagues of mine were having this discussion this morning; ‘Sport’ is one of the last bastions of event-based viewing (Can you really count Dancing With The Stars?). Real results at real time. you can go ahead and watch any show; the Walking Dead for instance, at any time and it will have the same, more or less impact if you watched it live or if you watched it 12 months later. Sports, however, are constantly changing; score updates, standing constantly shifting, one team will fall off of a hot streak while another team at the bottom of the standings shoots to the top in just under a month; Real exciting stuff that would be lost if you tried to ‘catch up’ on baseball by watching 3 months worth of games in a little over a week.
Now this isn’t going to be the type of blog where i complain about things with no effort put into thinking of solutions. I’m not an expert, but i try to continually think analytically.
Solution Number 1: Broadcast Live Stream
This option seems to me to be the simplest temporary solution; but it could get out of hand if it was brought in to be a permanent one. Have whoever is broadcasting a game; Fox, TBS, ESPN; not MLB.TV Live Stream the game on their owned website directly for people within the MLB.TV Blackout zone. Once you’ve done that, PLASTER it with ads! Baseball has an overabundance of advertising material; from the name of the stadium to the Coors-Light sponsored Trip to the mound. Throw up banners on the site; Throw in audio commercials or in-stream video ads to play in-between plays. go ahead and get the scoreboard for the play-by-play tool sponsored. There’s a million ways to do this online and have it completey supported by ad revenue; and as more advanced and more expensive ad technology evolves, the more potential revenue there is for these broadcasters to cash in on Online viewers. KEEP IN MIND you anti-advertising redditors; the ad revenue would be going to the Parent Broadcasting company, the one that you would be watching on LIVE TV anyway with your cable or satellite package. We’ll have to have another talk on Advertising some other time, as this post is already far too long.
Solution Number 2: MLB.TV Paywall
you could use a Paywall and adjust subscriptions from a Per-Game, Per-Series, Per-Team or All-Teams for people who live within those blackout zones. This is more or less the idea that MLB was attempting to do, but since they have local broadcasters with blackout rights, prevents them from fully realized.
Last thing I’ll say is that I know that there is a heavy anti-advertising subculture out there. FULL DISCLOSURE, I am biased as I work in the Advertising industry, so I obviously gush at opportunities where my talents become more valuable. A lot of people think that advertisers are these evil, Don Draper phonies who think of people as sheep and that they need to herd the sheep to buy stuff they don’t need. This isn’t true (again, we’ll talk another time on another post). There are a group of people out there who love things and would gladly pay for them or go out of their way to support them. You probably have a favorite food joint that you would travel miles for and pay as much as you can for just to support them. It could be a TV show like Game Of Thrones or a book series like Harry Potter.
There was a great episode a couple of months ago on one of my Favorite podcasts, 99% Invisible (you can find it HERE), about Trappist Beer and the accessibility problem that fans and connoisseurs experiencing trying to acquire it. You could easily draw a connection or correlation that MLB.TV is experiencing with it’s accessibility that you have people like me, who are gladly willing to drop $100+ on a subscription that is, for all intents and purposes, useless to me and my current living situation.
I just want to shout out to all of you out there who have participated in this conversation with me on Reddit; another reason why that site is so good; it brings thousands of people from differing perspectives together to discuss problems and issues with society in a constructive and thought provoking way. You guys are the best!