MLB.TV is Back, But the Blackouts Are Still in Full Effect
Here’s the good news: MLB.TV is available for the 2016 season (subscribing through that link actually helps CI, so feel free to subscribe away) and the Premium tier is only $109.99, a whole Andrew Jackson cheaper (Prez Day jokes!) than last year. What’s more, MLB.TV Premium also includes the Follow Your Team feature that had people in a froth when news of the changes to the streaming service came out a while back. And if that’s not enough, there’s also a Single Team option that allows you to purchase only your squad’s games at a reduced cost of $84.99. Sounds pretty sparkly, huh?
Ah, but not all that glitters is gold and not all that streams is water. I’m talking about pee, as in kind of pissed off (which is better than being pissed on, but still). While the updates I’d posted to the article linked above indicated that much of the pesky blackout ban could be circumvented via authentication of access to any RSN, the subscription info at MLB.TV seems to say otherwise.
And by “seems to say otherwise,” I mean explicitly tells you you’re still going to be blacked out. Copied and pasted straight from the site (emphasis theirs): “Watch a single team’s out-of-market regular season games LIVE in full HD. Note: this product will not allow you to view live games of any local (in-market) team.” Okay, I thought, maybe there’s better news if I check the actual restrictions for my local zip.
Well, that’s about as tasty as a poopy-flavored lollipop. But at least I don’t live few hundred miles to the northwest. Iowans, prepare to have your buzzes killed.
Okay, that pretty much sucks.
But, Evan, what about that Follow Your Team thing you referenced earlier and that was supposed to revolutionize the game? Well, turns out it’s only about as revolutionary as Vermin Supreme. It’s not available yet and doesn’t have to be until the ASG, but “If and when available in your area, the new Follow Your Team feature will allow MLB.TV Premium subscribers to watch their favorite out-of-market club telecasts without blackouts. Such MLB.TV Premium subscribers have to be authenticated television subscribers of their local Regional Sports Network (emphasis mine).”
The RSN stuff isn’t really new, but it had been thought that subscribers would be able to authenticate and get their team when they were in an area in which they couldn’t actually get said team on said RSN. Now, however, this appears to be no more than a way for a Cubs fan in, say, Arizona, to watch the Cubs play the D-Backs. Such a customer would normally have been blacked out of the game because it involves a local team. So, yeah, that’s really not that great.
Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs had written about the preservation of MLB’s blackout policies* back in January, but I find the latter sentence below interesting in light of what I’m seeing on the subscription site right now.
In particular, it appears that by agreeing to create new viewing options for fans, and lowering the price for its MLB.TV package, the league has succeeded – at least for the time being – in preserving its oft-criticized blackout policy.
Finally, although not mentioned in the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ statement, Eric Fisher of the Sports Business Journal is reporting that the settlement could also pave the way towards allowing subscribers of RSNs owned by Comcast and DirecTV to stream in-market games via MLB.TV.
It was that same report from Fisher I had referenced in thinking that folks in Indiana and Iowa, among other areas, would indeed be able to access the Cubs. While I suppose that is still possible, it appears that it would only come after agreements are reached with DirecTV and Comcast, if at all. Maybe there will be some super-secret special way to access your team, like knowing where to find the 1-Up mushrooms in Mario Bros., which you only know because someone showed you or you got lucky and not because it’s made obvious by the game’s layout. From what I’m gathering, however, it certainly doesn’t seem as though the blackouts (full map here) would suddenly be lifted in those regions.
This news also reinforces what has been painfully obvious from the start, which is the idea that cord-cutters continue to be bent over a barrel when it comes to streaming Cubs games. Well, those who have eliminated cable but who still live within the blackout zone, anyway. The moral of the story here is that nothing is really changing, other than the price. But hey, if you can’t watch your team live because they’re blacked out, you can watch an archived version of the game 90 minutes after its conclusion. So that’s…yeah, no, it still sucks.
If you’d like, you can check out the blackout language in full below. If you happen to be one of my few readers living being the curtain of darkness cast upon Midwestern Cubdom by MLB’s evil broadcast-rights empire, I’d encourage you once more to subscribe to MLB.TV and help out Cubs Insider at the same time. If, however, you reside here inside the quarantine zone for the Blackout Plague, I invite you to raise your fists with me and shake them with the full fury of your righteous indignation.
We will not go gentle into that good night! Oh, who am I kidding, of course we will. But we’ll probably send some angry emails and/or call you, so there!
UPDATE: The following comes from a friend who actually did call the MLB.TV Customer Service line in the hope of getting a little more information about coverage in his area:
Told the dude where I lived and he honestly said, “Wow, you’re f*cked.”
That’s generally my sentiment when speaking to/about folks from Iowa anyway, but the fact that a call center rep straight told it like it is was hilarious. Of course, they no doubt have to put up with telling people several times a day that they have no way to stream their favorite team, so I’m guessing the candor is little more than a standard job hazard.
*See below for full text of MLB blackout restrictions (emphasis mine)
Regular Season Local Live Blackout in the U.S. and Canada: All live games streamed on any MLB.TV product and available through MLB.com At Bat are subject to local, regional or national blackouts. Except for certain MLB regular season and Postseason games as described below or in certain MLB Club home television territories for which MLBAM may offer in-market subscription Services, all live games will be blacked out in each applicable Club’s home television territory. If a game is blacked out in an area, it is not available for live game viewing. If you are an MLB.TV subscriber within an area subject to blackout, the applicable game will be available as an archived game approximately 90 minutes after the conclusion of the game.
In addition, note:
- Home television territory blackout restrictions apply regardless of whether a Club is home or away and regardless of whether or not a game is televised in a Club’s home television territory.
- U.S. Clubs may also be subject to blackout in parts of Canada based on their home television territory as determined by Major League Baseball.
- All live San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics games will be blacked out in the U.S. territory of Guam.
If you think we have inaccurately determined your blackout restrictions, you may call Customer Service at 866.800.1275 (US) or 512.434.1542 (International).
Regular Season Weekend U.S. National Live Blackout:
- National. Due to MLB exclusivities, live national broadcasts of Major League Baseball events, such as the All-Star Game, and select live national broadcasts of MLB games, including those broadcast by ESPN on Sunday, will be blacked out in the United States (including the territories of Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands). For a current listing of regular season games that will be nationally blacked out in the United States, click here. The list at this link will be updated throughout the season.
- Regional. Certain Saturday regular season MLB games broadcast live by the Fox network will be blacked out to those end users who attempt to access a live game within the territory of an applicable Fox Saturday broadcast. Fox broadcasts available in areas other than where an end user is accessing MLB.TV live streaming will be available for live game viewing. For a current list of Fox Saturday broadcasts subject to regional blackout, click here. Those Fox Saturday games that are not subject to regional blackout will be subject to the general home television territory blackout restrictions listed above (under Regular Season Blackouts in the U.S. and Canada). If you are an MLB.TV Subscriber in an area subject to blackout the blacked out game will be available as an archived game approximately 90 minutes after the conclusion of the game.
Authenticated Access to National Games and Events via MLB.TV Premium. Certain MLB games and events, such as the All-Star Game and select MLB Postseason games, broadcast nationally by Fox may be available for live streaming via MLB.TV to those subscribers who are also eligible customers of a participating cable or video service provider (“Authenticated Access”). MLB.TV Premium subscribers who are not able to authenticate with a participating cable or video service provider, as determined by the applicable provider, will be blacked out from live streaming of these nationally broadcast games or events.