I recently cancelled my cable package because I don’t watch much TV, and Google TV provides all the entertainment I need, with one glaring exception -- I can’t watch Tigers games online. Major League Baseball blacks out local market viewers, and the local TV carrier, Fox Sports Detroit, can’t broadcast games online. I want to live-stream Detroit Tigers games, and I’m willing to pay for it, but baseball has balked at the Internet.
The problem, as Fox Sports Detroit explained to me on Twitter, is that “MLB controls all streaming rights of its content,” and “At present, pro leagues do not live stream games in local TV market.” Fox Sports Detroit also said their TV rights keep MLB from streaming the content “to protect the investment of the TV rightsholders and the cable/video providers (and their subscribers).” Put simply, Fox Sports owns local TV rights, MLB owns online rights, and the two do not work together. Fans lose.
As much as I love listening to the Tigers on an old transistor radio, the dead-end relationship between MLB and local TV presents quite a problem for a fan without cable service. I’m left either scrambling to find a workaround -- a sling box or a proxy server -- or I simply stop watching the games, which is the more probable end. And to be clear, I’m perfectly willing to pay for online viewing.
Frustrating and confusing as the Internet is, there’s a solution that benefits fans, local TV, MLB, and the Tigers.The easy fix is this: MLB retains exclusive online rights except in local markets. In local markets, MLB allows the TV station to stream live on their own website. In return, local TV gives a percentage of profits to MLB. To prevent out-of-market fans from simply visiting the TV station’s website instead of buying an MLB TV package, local TV blocks all non-local IP addresses, and even puts up a paywall.
Profits for both MLB and local TV would increase. The station could provide hard online viewer data to advertisers, and could even broadcast the exact same feed to TV and their website, thus charging even more for commercial spots.
Tell me everyone working in Metro Detroit offices wouldn’t be streaming Tigers games this summer, not to mention viewers from Google TV, iPhone and Android devices, and other online sources. Viewership would go through the roof, TV and baseball would profit, and I’d get to watch my beloved Tigers. If only Major League Baseball loved me back.