Yankees Breaking Ice On Eliminating Blackout Rule

We’ve been quick to point out the comically fan-unfriendly practices by the New York Yankees, especially in the new Yankees Stadium. Unless $1500 seats and moldy hot dog buns are your thing, of course.

Blackout Map
(Soon, this horrordemon of a map will be the antiquated relic it should have been a decade ago.)

But as the paragons of fairness we are, we have to point it out when the team does something good. No, check that; when the team does something awesome. The single greatest scourge of the MLB fan experience, Bud Selig the local market blackout rule, is in serious danger as the Yankees are about to roll out in-market video streaming online.

SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY has the report, with a bevy of quotes from major players that basically say “it’s about. damn. time.”:

The Yankees will debut their local live Web streaming offering with tonight’s away game against the Twins […] for $49.95 for the season or $19.95 a month. The in-market streaming represents the first in major pro sports in which local TV rights are also involved.

Why’s this important? Oh, mainly because regardless of your proximity to a television or whether the game’s actually televised on an available channel, based on where you live, you won’t be able to watch streaming video on MLB.TV for anywhere from one to six teams.

It’s a matter of local television networks and teams owning broadcast rights to certain areas, which is usually (but certainly not always) tied to where the games are aired. Good for the networks who want to keep their advertising money; terrible if you happen to wander into the wrong market during a road trip.

But yes, to the quotes:

LHB Sports Entertainment & Media Principal Lee Berke: “This offer will be another milestone in the transformation of teams and leagues into content providers. Its true impact will be felt several years down the road as local streaming eventually gains wider distribution and traction, eventually taking its place alongside the arsenal of new and traditional media platforms that sports properties utilize to deliver content.”

Blogger Benjamin Kabak of RIVER AVENUE BLUES: “Long-term, I expect the in-market streams to have a significant impact on sports and the cable business in general. […] While this first deal encompasses only those who already subscribe to YES via cable, it allows for the possibility in the future that those without cable or a TV can still subscribe to an MLB.tv offering in market. At that point, sports viewing will undergo a true revolution.”

We’re wary of reckless exaggeration here, but he’s not wrong; while we’ve come a long way in just the last 15 years in terms of ability to follow a team (remember the radio and how indispensable that was? You do if you’re at least 30), technology is rapidly approaching the point at which anyone, anywhere in the US, has at least the physical capability to watch any sporting event taking place.

All that’s essentially left, then, is the negotiation as far as money and advertising are concerned. Teams want to get fans in the seats first and in front of a local-area television second, and that’s fine. Money - and lots of it - still has to be made. But the Yankees and YES have put the first price on local streaming video out there for the fans’ approval. Maybe it’s too high; maybe it can go higher. Whatever. It’s another step forward, and a rather significant one at that.