Today's technologies have made streaming video ubiquitous, and Major League Baseball has been surprisingly adept in keeping up with the many available outlets for IP video. This year's MLB.tv package offers a wide array of viewing options for your subscription - iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch, Apple TV, PC, Roku, Boxee, Android, Samsung and LG televisions and more.
MLB Blackout MapI remember in the early days of streaming baseball, I found myself in Boston unable to watch a Mets/Yankees game on TV. I signed up for MLB's service, and found that I was unable to view the game because the address on my credit card was from New York, even though I was physically outside the blackout area - very frustrating! Over the last couple of years, MLB.tv has progressed to a system which targets your location based on your IP address at the time. This seems fair, since it follows the blackout policy, but it also opened the door to the use of proxy servers to bypass the location detection - bounce your requests through a server in another city and you appear to be coming from outside the banned region. Now, the new MLB.tv promises to throw your personal privacy to the wind by using your devices' location awareness against you: "Note MLB.com live game blackouts are determined in part by IP address. MLB.com At Bat live game blackouts are determined using one or more reference points, such as GPS and software within your mobile device." So there is some kind of cryptic algorithm being used to suss out my true location? Great. I am sure nothing else will be done with my location data like gathering it for marketing purposes or reselling it, right?
There was talk that the Blackout Policy might be reevaluated at the 2008 owner's meetings, but the overwhelming spotlight of the steroid investigation seemingly pushed this topic to the side and it does not appear to have been revisited since. There are also some examples of crazy gerrymandering that has gone on, such as baseball fans in Nevada being blacked out as a "home team area" for the Dodgers, Angels, Diamondbacks, A's, Giants and Padres - this even precludes cable affiliates from showing these six teams live on television in Las Vegas, even though none of the home broadcast stations that are supposedly being protected are available locally! It also led to 3 million Cablevision subscribers in New York being unable to watch the first game of last year's NLCS.
The Blackout Policy is incredibly anachronistic and arbitrary. For an organization that seems to "get it" on technology and portability of their subscription service, being hamstrung by these rules to the point that no one can watch their home team live is just crazy. While TV contracts surely have something to do with this, allowing old media dinosaurs to control your content distribution is business suicide in today's market. Of course, as a monopoly, MLB doesn't truly play in a free market, so they can get away with it. I would love to have the FCC take a look at this instead of the useless censorship crusades it favors. By neutering a product that is highly sought after, only relevant when available as a live stream and of the greatest value to home town fans, MLB.tv continues to strike out for another season.