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Friday

10

February 2012

60

COMMENTS

FOX and The Murder of Saturday Baseball

Written by , Posted in General

It won’t be much longer now.  With pitchers and catchers about to report, we’re only a few weeks away from baseball season.  And as happy as I am to have the game back, I know the common frustrations that accompany every baseball season are on their way back too.

Specifically, I know I have several Saturdays worth of frustration to look forward to.  Why?  Because FOX is trying to murder Saturday baseball.

Unless you’re a Cubs fan living in Chicago or nearby, or you’re willing to watch whichever game FOX thinks you ought to care about each week, you know what I’m talking about.

As part of FOX’s deal with the MLB, they have an exclusive broadcast window every Saturday from 12:10-7pm CT.  That’s why the most Saturday Cubs games–at least, the ones not broadcast by FOX–start at 12:05pm.  In fact, the Cubs are one of the few teams that routinely try to start their games ahead of the blackout schedule.  Most other teams regularly start their Saturday games in the evening.*  FOX’s blackout window cuts a wide swath through the heart of the weekend, creating a vacuum for viewers on one of the few days they can watch their teams.

*The plethora of day games on Sunday is likewise the result of ESPN’s own blackout window, which starts at 4pm CT.  You can see the blackout policy spelled out in detail here.

The problems really start when FOX decides to fill that vacuum with their regional scheduling.  Instead of covering one game–like ESPN does on Sunday nights–and forcing the rest of the teams to schedule around them, FOX grabs two or three or even four of the best match-ups from the schedule and shows you only the team or teams from your part of the country.**

**Here’s the archaic map they use to arbitrarily determine which teams you’ll get to see.  Hello, Montana–you’ll get the Mariners and like it!

That means on a Saturday FOX picks up the Cubs game, unless you live in the Chicago area, or in the area near the Cubs’ opponent, you’re not going to see the game.  Since I live in LA, the chances I’ll see the Cubs play on FOX are very slim.  In fact, even when they’re the first game of a FOX national doubleheader, me and the rest of the LA audience don’t get to see the game–we get syndicated cartoons instead.

Try to follow the “logic” of FOX and the MLB here:  instead of letting baseball fans watch the game they want to see, or even giving them the option to watch the game of their choice on either the local FOX Sports network or FX, they presume baseball fans will just be happy to watch whatever game they’re shown.  Like I’m going to watch three hours worth of Angels or Dodgers baseball just because they’re the teams I live closest too.  Or that I want to watch an entire four or five hour contest between the Yankees and Red Sox because that’s what they’ve deemed to be the game of the week.  At most you’ll get a couple innings out of me–I’m far more likely to plant myself on the couch and watch hours of baseball if I’m able to see my team.

So instead of force-feeding baseball fans one or two games every week, why not give us a choice?  Keep the regional action on the local FOX network if you must, but show the alternate game on FOX Sports or FX.  No doubt more baseball fans would watch every Saturday if they were going to get to see their team play.  I can’t imagine they’re really getting more viewers over on FX with the umpteenth showing of Fantastic 4: Rise of the Sliver Surfer.

It’s like FOX is working off a model designed long before cable and satellite TV.  Today you have hundreds of channels to choose from.  And if you can’t find anything on live TV, you can consult your DVR or watch a DVD.  Or find something on Netflix or Hulu.  Or fire up the Xbox and play some Halo or Modern Warfare.  There are simply too many other options available to expect me to invest a bunch of time in a game I don’t care about.

The biggest problem is that there is no way to circumvent the blackout.  Not the expensive MLB Extra Innings subscription on DIRECTV.  Not the equally pricey MLB.TV subscription.  Nothing gets you past the blackout.  You might be alright if you have an ESPN Zone in your area, or a quality sports bar, but even those options are dwindling.  Most places simply won’t pay the exorbitant fees to show the blacked out games.***  It’s not worth the one or two customers they might draw to make sure they can broadcast ever Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians game.

***One example:  There’s a local Claim Jumper Jedi and I used to frequent during football season because they carried all the games.  They dropped their NFL Sunday Ticket subscription this season because DIRECTV wanted them to pay a separate fee for each of their ten screens.  Needless to say they had a significantly smaller Sunday crowd this season.  There’s no reason to go out to a restaurant or sports bar if they don’t have any more games available than I have at home.

In fact, my only access to a blacked out Cubs game is to listen to the game on my MLB.com Gameday Audio subscription.  Since they don’t blackout any games, and since the Cubs’ abundance of weekly day games means I’m listening to a large percentage of the season while I’m still at work, the Gameday Audio subscription might be the best $15 I spend all year.

But that I’m eager to listen to the game online instead of watch whatever game FOX is airing illustrates the problem they’ve created for many baseball fans.  Shutting me out from watching my team is not the way to get me to watch your network.  Look at the declining number of people who actually watch baseball for all the proof you need.  Even the audiences for the playoffs and the World Series are shrinking.  And I really do think FOX’s Saturday policies are at least partially to blame.  People are getting out of the habit of watching baseball on TV–the way to get more of them to tune in is not to cut them off from their teams.

It’s high time for FOX and the MLB to dump their antiquated blackout rules and give us baseball fans the option to see our teams on one of the few days we’re able to watch them play.  Common sense should not be too much to ask.

  • Anonymous

    Do you at least get national WGN?

  • Glennandsharon

    So who, if anyone, watches the Jays? Is that a Canadian, Sportsnet thing?

  • Glennandsharon

    So who, if anyone, watches the Jays? Is that a Canadian, Sportsnet thing?

  • Anonymous

    And yes MLB’s TV rules are horrible. I remember a few years back a White Sox game had to be joined in progress because the other team couldn’t push the start time back

  • AC0000000

    And yes MLB’s TV rules are horrible. I remember a few years back a White Sox game had to be joined in progress because the other team couldn’t push the start time back

  • Anonymous

    The NFL’s TV rules are much nicer. I don’t have Sunday Ticket, but it’s great that I get every game on TV. I do think the NFL should stop the policy of TV blackouts if it doesn’t sell out though. These are tough times.

  • AC0000000

    The NFL’s TV rules are much nicer. I don’t have Sunday Ticket, but it’s great that I get every game on TV. I do think the NFL should stop the policy of TV blackouts if it doesn’t sell out though. These are tough times.

  • Anonymous

    I have friends in Indiana, where there are no baseball teams, and they get blacked out from the Cubs, White Sox, Indians, Reds, and Tigers. They’re supposed to be going to all these games? And how is someone supposed to be able to go to a game WHEN IT’S SOLD OUT!?

  • Anonymous
  • Jeremiah Johnson

    I do get WGN, and it’s wonderful when they’re carrying the Cubs games.  But this season they only have 62 games on the schedule, so the MLB.TV and Gameday Audio subscriptions will come in handy once again.

    • Anonymous

      Not every game is on national WGN though. I don’t have national WGN here, but on the drive down, there were a couple WGN Bulls games I couldn’t get in the hotels, because they were only being caried on Chicago WGN.

      • Jeremiah Johnson

        The Bulls & Blackhawks have different agreements, but the nationwide reputation of WGN was built on the fact that they carry the Cubs games.  You’ll get all 62.

    • AC0000000

      Not every game is on national WGN though. I don’t have national WGN here, but on the drive down, there were a couple WGN Bulls games I couldn’t get in the hotels, because they were only being caried on Chicago WGN.

      • Jeremiah Johnson

        The Bulls & Blackhawks have different agreements, but the nationwide reputation of WGN was built on the fact that they carry the Cubs games.  You’ll get all 62.

  • Appreciate the MT shout-out.  Last season, I got the M’s feed, and my (don’t ask me) Mariners fan / best friend in the ultra-west-part of the state was getting Rockies games via Fox.  I am approximately one million miles away from any ballpark, so am likely to once again consume my media in audio form from Pat and Keith, with the occasional Sunday game on ESPN. I about shat last year when I finally saw Fast Tony on the tube.  And Barney being sort of Asian?  Didn’t see that one coming.  

  • Appreciate the MT shout-out.  Last season, I got the M’s feed, and my (don’t ask me) Mariners fan / best friend in the ultra-west-part of the state was getting Rockies games via Fox.  I am approximately one million miles away from any ballpark, so am likely to once again consume my media in audio form from Pat and Keith, with the occasional Sunday game on ESPN. I about shat last year when I finally saw Fast Tony on the tube.  And Barney being sort of Asian?  Didn’t see that one coming.  

  • Smitty

    I used to live in riverside ca and I had a specific cable provider that didn’t carry wgn. So I switched to satellite because they had wgn listed on their channels. turns out they didn’t have it where I lived. I had to go to certain bars just to maybe catch 15 games all season. Now I live in kenosha and am close enough to get local broadcasts and even milwaukee broadcasts in case they play the brewers. I still listen to 90% of games though.

    • Anonymous

      Since you’re in the border zone, do you get Cubs or Brewers games then? And for football, Bears or Packers?

  • Smitty

    I used to live in riverside ca and I had a specific cable provider that didn’t carry wgn. So I switched to satellite because they had wgn listed on their channels. turns out they didn’t have it where I lived. I had to go to certain bars just to maybe catch 15 games all season. Now I live in kenosha and am close enough to get local broadcasts and even milwaukee broadcasts in case they play the brewers. I still listen to 90% of games though.

  • Buddy

     Thank the man upstairs for Direct TV’s MLB package.

  • Buddy

     Thank the man upstairs for Direct TV’s MLB package.

  • Mark Strickler

    The baseball TV agreement is antediluvian at best – the example brought forth here is an excellent example.  Likewise with other blackouts that are regionally based – an example is how the Reds black out Extra Innings broadcasts in Nashville.  Who in Nashville cares about some team in southern Ohio?  People here like the Braves or one of the popular teams like the Yankees and the Cubs.  Yet Cincinnati has the right to black out Reds games in Nashville so they do.  Extra Innings subscribers should get *all ballgames* but Bud Selig won’t negotiate it so it doesn’t happen.  I’m really looking forward to that old codger’s retirement and hope that a new commish will review these draconian agreements when they expire.

  • Mark Strickler

    The baseball TV agreement is antediluvian at best – the example brought forth here is an excellent example.  Likewise with other blackouts that are regionally based – an example is how the Reds black out Extra Innings broadcasts in Nashville.  Who in Nashville cares about some team in southern Ohio?  People here like the Braves or one of the popular teams like the Yankees and the Cubs.  Yet Cincinnati has the right to black out Reds games in Nashville so they do.  Extra Innings subscribers should get *all ballgames* but Bud Selig won’t negotiate it so it doesn’t happen.  I’m really looking forward to that old codger’s retirement and hope that a new commish will review these draconian agreements when they expire.

  • Buddy

     Draconian Agreements…another great band name!

  • Buddy

     Draconian Agreements…another great band name!

  • As would be ‘Antediluvian at Best’…

  • As would be ‘Antediluvian at Best’…

  • Buddy

    Even better! A band like that would probably open with “Dogs” by Pink Floyd or “Paranoid Android” by Radiohead. 

  • Buddy

    Even better! A band like that would probably open with “Dogs” by Pink Floyd or “Paranoid Android” by Radiohead. 

  • Mark Strickler

    Nobody here except us androgenous trannies 🙂

  • Mark Strickler

    Nobody here except us androgenous trannies 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I set my stove on fire. Just finished cleaning up. There was a grease build-up on the burners, so now I am cleaning them all. So disgusting when grease builds up. I work at Pizza Planet at DisneyWorld, there are some dishes where I will clean right away if I am doing dishes, because they’ve got grease. The key to effectively removing grease is to do it while it’s hot.

  • AC0000000

    I set my stove on fire. Just finished cleaning up. There was a grease build-up on the burners, so now I am cleaning them all. So disgusting when grease builds up. I work at Pizza Planet at DisneyWorld, there are some dishes where I will clean right away if I am doing dishes, because they’ve got grease. The key to effectively removing grease is to do it while it’s hot.

  • Mastrick and CAPS…congrats on the strangest consecutive posts ever

    • Anonymous

      Any time

    • AC0000000

      Any time

  • Doc Raker

    This is a great piece Jeremiah. I couldn’t agree more. This is a MLB FOX marriage made in hell, let’s hope for a quick divorce. The sad thing is these blackouts reduce the number of baseball fans watching baseball, not increase it yet MLB gets richer because someone in a conference room says, 30 million people watch baseball on nay given day and we want those 30 million people to ourselves. Problem is it is 30 million for all of baseballs 15 games, not 30 million for 1 game. MLB and FOX gets an F for this one and Jeremiah gets an A.

  • Doc Raker

    More like a suicide than murder since MLB entered into this agreement on it’s own.

  • Doc Raker

    More like a suicide than murder since MLB entered into this agreement on it’s own.

  • Smitty

    @BLPCB..i get BOTH..i have two of every channel..of I don’t like milwaukees version of the news,i switch from 4 to 5..both nbc..cbs is 2 or 8..get it? And I get wgn. So that’s cool.

    • Anonymous

      That’s awesome.

    • Anonymous

      One more question: Bears fan or Packers fan?

    • CubbieDude

      I’ll bet you don’t get WTTW (PBS – Channel 11 in Chicago) anymore.

  • Smitty

    @BLPCB..i get BOTH..i have two of every channel..of I don’t like milwaukees version of the news,i switch from 4 to 5..both nbc..cbs is 2 or 8..get it? And I get wgn. So that’s cool.

    • AC0000000

      That’s awesome.

    • AC0000000

      One more question: Bears fan or Packers fan?

    • CubbieDude

      I’ll bet you don’t get WTTW (PBS – Channel 11 in Chicago) anymore.

  • Anonymous
  • Eddie Von White

    I cannot get the Cubs on Comcast because I live 2 miles over the Illinois border in Wisconsin. I can get the Brewers though. And since I live in WI I’m supposed to be a Brewer fan.

    • Anonymous

      Yet Smitty gets both sets, and he’s in Kenosha. Weird. Do you at least get National WGN?

      • Eddie Von White

        B-CAPS – I get national WGN but the Cubs are only on twice a week , the rest of the time they are on Comcast which blacks them out in my area. So I only get the Cubs on Tues. and Friday. I spent an hour and a half on the phone with Directv to try to figure out a way to watch the Cubs. No success. BTW – I am back from Florida this a.m. We were in Clearwater Beach.

  • Eddie Von White

    I cannot get the Cubs on Comcast because I live 2 miles over the Illinois border in Wisconsin. I can get the Brewers though. And since I live in WI I’m supposed to be a Brewer fan.

    • AC0000000

      Yet Smitty gets both sets, and he’s in Kenosha. Weird. Do you at least get National WGN?

      • Eddie Von White

        B-CAPS – I get national WGN but the Cubs are only on twice a week , the rest of the time they are on Comcast which blacks them out in my area. So I only get the Cubs on Tues. and Friday. I spent an hour and a half on the phone with Directv to try to figure out a way to watch the Cubs. No success. BTW – I am back from Florida this a.m. We were in Clearwater Beach.

  • Smitty

    @BLPCB..bears fan all day everyday..i grew up in chicago..kenosha is just home now..and no, my wgn is local..i don’t much care for wgn america anyways

    • Anonymous

      My question was directed at Eddie. If u get Chicago WGN it doesn’t matter about national. We get it with our cable at home. I just wish here in Florida Disney would provide WGN in the apartments. There are a lot of Chicago people here. Whenever I go to Milwaukee I was always get off at exit 348 in Kenosha and get gas. Love it. 50 cents a gallon cheaper than Chi. Always make sure I get a full tank

  • Smitty

    @BLPCB..bears fan all day everyday..i grew up in chicago..kenosha is just home now..and no, my wgn is local..i don’t much care for wgn america anyways

    • AC0000000

      My question was directed at Eddie. If u get Chicago WGN it doesn’t matter about national. We get it with our cable at home. I just wish here in Florida Disney would provide WGN in the apartments. There are a lot of Chicago people here. Whenever I go to Milwaukee I was always get off at exit 348 in Kenosha and get gas. Love it. 50 cents a gallon cheaper than Chi. Always make sure I get a full tank

  • Ryan Martin

    If they were really smart, MLB would stream all the games online for free. How many Cubs fans are there today because of the superstation WGN? 

  • ryanjaredmartin

    If they were really smart, MLB would stream all the games online for free. How many Cubs fans are there today because of the superstation WGN?