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MLB may be on the verge of scoring a major win for its fans.
Perhaps the most infuriating aspect of being a baseball fan these days is the league’s blackout policy. Cable networks and regional sports networks have long enjoyed preferable treatment, making games harder to watch.
For some MLB fans, blackouts have led to ridiculous numbers of games being unavailable through the their popular At Bat streaming package.
Iowa has become perhaps the best example of blackout-related absurdity.
The entire state is currently unable to stream Cubs, White Sox, Twins, Cardinals, Brewers and Royals games. Despite the fact that many residents are hundreds of miles from those stadiums.
People in Hawaii are blacked out of Dodgers, Angels, Padres, A’s and Giants games despite being an ocean away.
But Sports Business Journal reported that MLB made a major executive hire recently, signaling their intention to explore the issue further.
MLB to Buy Rights?
According to the report, the league hired Billy Chambers as EVP/Local Media. Chambers has a wealth of experience with regional sports networks, leading to speculation about MLB’s intentions.
“Baseball execs believe that it will gain control over many of those rights controlled by Diamond Sports,” writes John Ourand.
Diamond Sports currently has the rights to 14 MLB teams, but is struggling financially.
But the biggest revelation is that the league has already examined combining their national product with local ones.
“MLB already has started looking into creating a national product that would combine its local rights with its out-of-market Extra Innings package — an effort that would do away with blackouts,” the report states.
This would be a seismic shift for baseball and its popularity.
One of the key hurdles to increasing fan interest in the sport is the difficulty in watching it. The regional networks are often inscrutable and endlessly frustrating.
Not to mention archaic and disconnected from how the modern fan watches baseball.
MLB has developed its mobile app as well as any league. But the last hurdle to jump is making it easier for users to watch games out on the go near their homes.
As with any business, the easier it is to find and consume a product, the better.
With this news, it seems that the league’s been listening to complaints and may have a fix on the way sooner rather than later.
Are robo umps next?