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Major League Baseball and The Onion of Evil

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I made fairly sizable purchase last Friday. I called up Comcast, my cable operator and said, "Yes, I'd like to sign up for the MLB Extra Innings package." My wife and I will pay $160 to watch the next six month of our favorite team, the Boston Red Sox from our San Francisco area home. It hurts me to spend money like this. It seems like living in a different location shouldn't prevent you from seeing your favorite team. Alas, that's the way things work today and I have to live with it. I imagine that in 5 or 10 years this business model will go the way of music stores like Tower Records.

There are a few options for Major League Baseball fans living away from their favorite teams:

  • Slingbox - We have a Slingbox back home, but there have been lots of technical problems getting it work with Verizon's FIOS service. It's partially Verizon having a complicated procedure for adding new televisions and partially the wiring of my friend's house. It's at the point where I've become too much of a burden to him and have dropped the subject.
  • MLB Extra Innings - This is the way we went. You give the cable operator or DirecTV $160 (or $200 if you don't get their early bird special) and you get a set of channels with a bunch of baseball games. If you have the Dish Network, you don't have this option, they weren't able to reach a deal with Major League Baseball this year.
  • MLB.TV - This is an option for those who want to stream the games over the Internet. One of the pluses is that you can get a monthly subscription rather than buying a whole season. The price is a more reasonable $120 a year. You are reduced to watching it on a computer or hooking up your computer to your TV. However, the biggest negative is that MLB likes to steal your money or at least they liked to steal mine.
  • Streaming P2P services - I'm not sure these are legal and I bet the quality isn't the best. Still I've heard of people using Sopcast and/or TVAnts to watch games. I don't really consider this an option, but I'm adding it here for completeness.

On Saturday morning my wife and I woke up excited to watch the game while we do a little Spring cleaning (because of the time zone difference, it's only 10 o'clock). We turn on the TV and go to our new channels and see that they are showing only four of the days 12 games - all starting at 7PM. I think that's very odd since there were currently 6 or 7 games in progress.

I called up Comcast. It takes me about 20 minutes to explain to two people that I have no service problems, but an issue with the programming (or lack thereof) being offered. I get put on hold for a quite awhile and as the call approaches it's one-hour mark, they direct me to InDemand's MLB Extra Innings website. It seems that the program is their issue and not Comcast's. I buy that, and the Comcast person is nice enough to give me a phone number for their offices. Of course InDemand's offices aren't open on the weekend.

I eventually got routed back to Comcast where I found someone who actually watches baseball. This is helpful because I'm fairly sure the other Comcast reps believed no baseball was being played at the time. He found some fine print about the MLB Extra Innings not being able to carry games during Fox's or ESPN's Game of the Week. Well, Fox didn't have game on, so that couldn't be it. Wait, looking through my TV guide, they are showing a game at 12:30. So that explains it...

Major League Baseball is paid a lot of money by Fox and ESPN to not show the other games at the same time on that service. It's a fairly stupid thing, but I've never once thought, "The Red Sox game isn't on, I'll watch the Dodgers/Padres." I'd guess that few people don't have that thought either. If people are willing to pay $160-$200 to "follow your favorite teams" and "get access to ALL the hard-hitting, base-stealing action.", they don't care about the game of the week.

It's at this point where I decided to look at the MLB.TV service again. They claim "April - September: WATCH and LISTEN to every regular season out-of-market game" as well as "WATCH every 2008 regular season out-of-market game LIVE or on-demand." Eureka! So this how I can watch the Red Sox on Saturday and Sunday when they are not the Game of The Week - "every game" means every game right? There are no asterisks or footnote markets next to those claims. Scroll down the screen and in the smallest, lightest gray text they can manage, they mention that the service is subject to the same Fox/ESPN blackout.

At this point, the Red Sox game was nearly over. They were losing 10-2 and my frustration came to a head. I explained the situation to my wife, who can't get over the fact that we paid $160 for most, but not all of the games that we got for free in Boston. The best I could do is say that Major League Baseball is an onion of bovine excrement - you pull off one layer and there's another layer beneath it.

Of course as long as they draw such strong feelings from me (and fans like me), they will be able to continue these practices.

Last updated on June 14, 2008.

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8 Responses to “Major League Baseball and The Onion of Evil”

  1. Jesse says:

    I know how you feel about MLB, I feel the same way about NFL Sunday Ticket. Ahh, lovely monopolies.

  2. PT says:

    Sorry to hear about the frustration, LazyMan. I know how painful it can be to deal with tv services and their antiquated programming structures.

    Best of luck to you in getting to watch your games and to the RedSox for the 08 season.

  3. Mark Krusen says:

    I know how you feel. I’m a Yankee fan and we’re lucky to get the games on local cable here in Central New York. I’d probably not get the package, and either just read about the game or listen to it on the radio.

  4. Jerry Hung says:

    Blue Jays fan here, sorry about the 10-2 win and weekend sweep of Red Sox

    I sure hope Jays will give Yankee/Sox a run for their money
    I am only hoping for playoff, world series will be a miracle!!

  5. I am very frugal when it comes to television – to the point where I will only pay the bare minimum so we just receive 4 channels. However, I am a sucker for tennis and specifically Wimbledon. A few years back there were rumours that the BBC were going to lose the broadcast rights and they would pass to a satelite company. I would definately have subscribed so that I could watch my favourite sport for 2 weeks a year, but fortunately the BBC are still broadcasting it.

  6. Matthew says:

    I hear your pain man. I got the same package to watch my beloved yankees from the epicenter of the devil’s lair- boston…haha.
    blackouts are annoying, but you get used to em. hang in there, its still a great package.

  7. FFB says:

    I’ve heard that MLB is working on fixing the blackout problem but from hearing your story it will probably end up costing you more. I understand Fox and ESPN not wanting anything else to play but this really hurts the fan.

    In all seriousness, the Mets are gonna take it all this year anyway (I’m a huge Bill Buckner fan!). Sorry, couldn’t help it. The Bosox have actually done a great job building up their farm system and they may have a very competitive teams for years. Seems they took the philosophy of Billy Beane and mixed it with the cash of the Yankees. And it’s worked twice for them so far.

  8. When my DH wasn’t working so hard we used to pay $160/year for NHL center ice. He could watch his beloved team at least 1-2x/week. His weekends were lovely. And they always were chasing #8 spot in the western conference. Sooo…good luck. by the way, I still don’t get the whole red sox thing, but I guess I need to pretend more.

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