Fox-TV ending Saturday out-of-market blackouts in 2014

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

It's a first step. You'll be able to watch any Fox-TV Saturday game in 2014, if you have a MLB.TV or Extra Innings subscription. MLB needs to keep going and end all blackouts.

That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind -- Neil Armstrong

Yes, I am well aware that televised baseball isn't as important as man landing on the moon, but I thought of the late Neil Armstrong's words when this announcement was made Tuesday morning by Fox Sports and Major League Baseball:

All right, there's a catch. You have to be a MLB Extra Innings (cable or satellite) or MLB.TV subscriber to be able to see the out-of-market games when Fox makes this change two years from now. But it means, for example, that if you are a Yankees fan living in, say, Florida, and Fox is carrying the Yankees game one Saturday, but it's not being televised in your market, you will be able to watch it if you subscribe to one of those services.

This is an acknowledgment, at last, by MLB and Fox, that fans of baseball teams live everywhere, not just in the home city of the team they root for.

Now, MLB must work on eliminating other forms of blackouts, which can be summed up via this thirty-years-out-of-date territorial map:

Look at Iowa. Six teams claim that state as their "territory", which in practice means that most games from those six teams aren't shown at all in that state -- because the territories refer to old territories carved out by over-the-air broadcast channels that (for the most part) don't carry baseball any more.

Further, consider this scenario: You are at a major-league ballpark. You subscribe to MLB.TV Premium, and you have the MLB At Bat app installed on your smartphone or iPad, meaning you can watch any game that MLB.TV is carrying... except for the one you are attending. What if you'd like to see a replay of a controversial play that's just happened in front of you, one that they won't show on the video board (or, if you're at Wrigley Field, can't see because there isn't a video board)?

It makes no sense to black these games out on smartphones or iPads. Technology has outstripped MLB's ability to keep up with the way fans want to watch games.

Rant's over. MLB has taken a baby step toward ending blackouts. That's a good thing. Let's hope it's just the first of many such steps.

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