I was amazed to learn that Major League Baseball is so proud of their ability to restrict fans from seeing game broadcasts that they are protecting the capability. Not only that, they want the world to know it.
MLB Advanced Media, L.P. (MLBAM) is known as the extremely profitable arm that introduced MLB.tv, the online video server for streaming games live and on-demand said to be the most successful subscription service on the entire internet.
The technology used by MLBAM for a system and method that identifies the location of an Internet user has been recognized with a U.S. patent, officially given number 7,486,943.
The purpose of the system is to determine if a user is eligible to receive the video feed of a particular game given television blackout restrictions. The system determines the location of an subscriber using Internet protocol addresses and compares it with a set of predefined rules to determine whether the user will be allowed to access to the requested content.
MLBAM has proudly boasted that it believes the patent is the first issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to the baseball industry in the modern era.
You’ll have to excuse me for not joining in the celebration. There are so many areas to be concerned about here that I can barely count them all.
First and foremost, with MLB it is always about money. In this case, it is protecting the golden goose they have raised in MLB.tv. Can you imagine the horrors, the tragedy, if one of their paying customers accidentally was able to see a game that MLB deems they shouldn’t?
Let’s say you were caught at work and couldn’t get home to see the game on television. Instead you wanted to tune it in on your computer at the office. Sorry. MLBAM’s world-class technology will ensure you can’t.
After all, why should fans be able to see games they wouldn’t otherwise be able to? In MLB-think, that is apparently bad business.
Wouldn’t it be great if MLB would decide to invest as much energy and resources in fixing their amazingly complex and overlapping broadcast territories and the confusing and frustrating blackouts inherent with them as they do in defending them?
In fact, three years ago, Commissioner Bud Selig promised to get to the bottom of the territorial rights issue.
“I don’t understand (blackouts) myself,” Selig said. “I get blacked out from some games.”
“Right now,” he said, “I don’t know what to do about it. We’ll figure it out.”
“I hear more about people who can’t get the game,” Selig said, “and, yes, I’ve already told our people we have to do something about it.”
Apparently what his “people” have done since 2006 has been to make it even more difficult for fans all over the country to see Major League Baseball games. And now they have the patent to prove it.
And they’re not stopping there. MLBAM has an additional ten patent applications pending approval, likely all intended to generate even more money while further decreasing fan-friendliness.
Congratulations, MLB. You may not seem to care much about fans, but you’re definitely consistent.