· Up The Irons!
Baseball's territorial blackouts, the scourge of so many frustrated television and streaming-video viewers, will be eliminated for the 2009 season if Major League Baseball's executive council follows suggestions president Bob DuPuy plans on presenting next week.
At the owners' meetings Wednesday, DuPuy said he will propose that if a team is not broadcasting in a geographic location for at least one season, it loses the right to black out games in that area. Gone would be the blackouts that prevent folks in Iowa and Las Vegas from seeing as many as six games each night and have caused viewing havoc throughout the country.
"I see no reason why there ought to be so many clubs able to black out in those territories," DuPuy said. "That's my intention. That's my goal. I didn't get any pushback. The whole thing is about making the game more popular and available."
While cities with teams rarely are affected - a local affiliate, such as the YES Network with the Yankees or New England Sports Network in Boston, usually carries a majority of games in major-metropolitan areas - ones on the periphery often suffer. Las Vegas, for example, is at least a four-hour drive from Los Angeles, Phoenix, Oakland, San Francisco and San Diego, yet games played by teams in those cities are blacked out. No Las Vegas cable company regularly broadcasts any of those teams' games.
Under DuPuy's suggestion, Las Vegas could not be claimed as part of any of those teams' territory unless a team's slate of games was carried by at least one local broadcast operator. If not, that team's games would be available in out-of-market packages such as Extra Innings and MLB.tv.
Not all blackouts will vanish under DuPuy's plan. The blackout of Saturday afternoon games on Fox, which is part of MLB's nearly $700 million annually in TV contracts, will remain. That blackout, as opposed to territorial rights ones, was for sale.