Yes, that's right long-suffering Major League Baseball fans, the witch may finally be dead! Ever since Bally Sports took over for Fox Sports regional stations, there has been growing pressure on the MLB to rid itself of the archaic rule of the blackout. After years of empty promises and a clear admission by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred that the practice needed to die, it seems MLB fans and sports fans everywhere may finally have an end to the grip that local sports stations have had on their wallets.
For those unfamiliar with the practice, here's the gist. According to cybernews.com,
MLB blackout rules state that due to local broadcasting companies in the US and Canada having exclusive streaming rights to certain games. This means that these games won’t be streamed on MLB.tv for users in the away or home team’s region. This is called a blackout. For example, when the Atlanta Braves are playing, you won’t be able to see the game if you’re also in Atlanta regardless of if local television is broadcasting it or not.
MLB rules also say that your location may be determined using various methods, including checking your IP address.Anna Zhadan Editor, cybernews.com
This archaic rule, set in place to protect cable providers who almost exclusively survive off of sports in 2022, looks finally to be at an end, and it's all part of an alliance between the MLB, the NBA, and the NHL.
How does Major League Baseball plan to end blackouts?
The New York Post reported a few weeks ago about a potential buyout with Bally Sports' parent company- Diamond Sports. Below are further details on the project between three of the four major sports leagues.
MLB, the NBA and the NHL may orchestrate a buyout of the nation’s dominant owner of regional sports TV networks, whose shaky finances pose an increasing threat to their teams, The Post has learned.
The trio of pro-sports leagues are expected to soon begin talks with Diamond Sports, which operates 21 regional Bally Sports networks that account for more than half the local broadcast markets around the country, sources close to the situation said.
A prospective deal is looming as Diamond — owned by Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcast Group — has been hemorrhaging cash and could be headed for a possible bankruptcy filing if it doesn’t find a white knight in the coming months, the sources claimed.
Sinclair in early 2019 won an auction to buy Fox Sports Networks from 21st Century Fox for $10.6 billion, giving it exclusive rights to broadcast the games of 42 teams. These included 14 MLB teams like the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres; 16 NBA teams including the Miami Heat; and 12 NHL teams including the Detroit Red Wings.Josh Kosman, NY Post
All of this has been spurned on by a looming bankruptcy that has hit Diamond hard in the last year. The logic behind the move is to potentially receive $3 billion to pay for their debts and hand the broadcast rights to the three leagues to then build out a streaming service each league has been looking for for some time.
The NFL has been expanding its own reach through streaming service broadcasts and the launch of its own NFL + service. No doubt, the three other professional leagues see the forward-thinking moves that the NFL has done with their own service and shipping Thursday Night Football to Amazon Prime.
This news is fantastic for the average consumer, not least of which because of the death of the hated blackout. For too long Baseball fans have begged the league to end the outdated practice and stop bolstering cable services that don't deserve it. How many times has Direct TV, Comcast, or WOW screwed over its customer base all in the name of sports broadcasts? Honestly, how many of us would even bother with cable service anymore if not for sports? I know for me personally, I only keep cable services from September-April and then discontinue the outrageous expense. Broadcast fees, price hikes, it can all go away if MLB, NBA, & NHL are able to band together and rid us of Bally and its ilk for good.
I support Major League Baseball's move wholeheartedly and would personally like to welcome each of the professional sports leagues into the 21st Century.