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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Territory Rights Continue to Block Fan Game Access

Living in the second largest city in the State of Iowa, baseball fans in Cedar Rapids should matter to Major League Baseball. Yet, due to a combination of archaic territory rights and you guessed it, money, there is only one very expensive way for fans of four regional MLB teams to subscribe to any service available today (or known to be in the planning stages) to see these clubs in action.

This is what is behind the title of my prior post, “In-Market Streaming Nice, but Not the Big Problem.” Plans are being worked on to bring streaming of MLB games to FOX regional sports network customers – but only those viewers who already subscribe to the FOX channels via their cable or satellite provider.

That is good, but what about those who do not have all of these choices?

MLB Blackout Areas.png
MLB Blackout Areas” by I, Braindrain0000. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

No fewer than six MLB teams claim the entire state of Iowa as their home territory – both Chicago teams, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City and Minnesota. As a result, all six clubs are blacked out across the state in both the and MLB Extra Innings pay offerings.

That would be understandable – if the Iowa consumer was given the choice to subscribe to any or all of the five regional sports networks that carry the six “local” teams – whether they are a current cable or satellite customer.

In reality, that is not the case, however. Cable companies make business decisions as to which regional networks they will make available to their customers. Many RSNs do not make the cut.

Let’s continue with Cedar Rapids as but one example of a widespread problem. Local cable companies Mediacom and ImOn offer just one regional sports network to their subscribers – Comcast Sports Net Chicago. That enables the viewer to catch a subset of Cubs and White Sox games.

That means Cedar Rapids fans of the Cardinals, Twins, Royals and Brewers with cable are completely out of luck.

Specifically, Cardinals followers living in Cedar Rapids cannot subscribe to FOX Sports Midwest from either cable provider. While they could pay for or MLB EI, it would do them no good, as Cardinals games are blacked out – because St. Louis is one of the six local teams.

Same for Royals fans wanting FOX Sports Kansas City, Twins fans looking for FOX Sports North and Brewers followers willing to subscribe to FOX Sports Wisconsin. These teams’ games are simply not available via cable (or online) in Cedar Rapids.

The only option for these customers would appear to be DirecTV. Their Premier tier, which is the only one that includes the FOX Sports regional networks, is very expensive. It costs $89.99 per month for the first 12 months and $136.99 per month for the second year of a two-year commitment – plus an additional Regional Sports fee may also apply.

This is a very heavy proposition – over $2,700. It is especially painful when you consider that it is more than 10 times the price of (just $129.99 for an entire season). Sure, you get a jillion more channels for the additional money, but what if you just want to watch Cardinals games?

Until these serious territory inequities are fixed, I will be far less excited about news that those who can already see games will soon be able to do so on additional platforms, too.

Why doesn’t MLB invest its efforts in getting games to everyone in a fair manner first?

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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27 Responses to “Territory Rights Continue to Block Fan Game Access”

  1. JumboShrimp says:

    What a remarkable player Molina is. He wants to play every game at at a demanding position. Even steals an occasional base. An incredible work ethic.

    • Brian Walton says:

      A great player but not one without flaws, as we were reminded last night. His baserunning mistake in the first might have taken the Cards out of a big inning. I think he forgets some times that he is as slow as he is. Good that he came back with the game-winner.

  2. Kansasbirdman says:

    Thanks for bringing this issue to light (I haven’t seen this talked about much elsewhere, but then again, i don’t have a lot of free time anymore).

    In 2009, my we got “cable” for the first time. I ended up selecting a satellite provider solely based on being able to get a channel that carried Cardinals broadcasts. (An added bonus was getting a DVR, which after being able to pause, rewind and record tv changed my world- I could actually pause the tv and have a conversation and not feel anxious I was missing anything!).

    Anyway, I am in the SE Kansas portion of the striped lines and glad that I can get the games, even if I only catch about 60% of them now compared to 2011 when our oldest was an infant and we could bottle feed on the couch and catch almost every game. Now, all of the channel choices is a bit of a curse, because we end up watching so much toddler television. I don’t suppose there will ever be a cafeteria or ala’ carte plan for channels due to similar forces at work as you describe.

  3. crdswmn says:

    As a Mediacom customer in Mid Missouri, I can testify that Mediacom ABSOLUTELY SUCKS. Their cable packages are very expensive, and the channels they offer show nothing but garbage all day long. I have half a dozen or more religion channels and shopping channels. They absolutely REFUSE to offer MLB Network to any of their customers.

    If I had any other cable company available in my area, I would switch faster than the speed of light. My landlord does not allow dishes on the property, so DirectTV and other satellite companies are unavailable.

    I do get Fox Sports Midwest, which is the only reason I even have cable any more. TV programming these days is crap.

  4. JumboShrimp says:

    I have been tv free for about 8 years. Not missing it.

  5. Bw52 says:

    Cards are trying to blow the division lead while showing how punchless and inept hitters they can be.Absolute garbage.Terrible AB after terrible AB.Its time for Mo to pull his head out of his butt and do something to put some life into this team.Enough Koizma,Cruz,Etc.Without Grichuk this team is punchless.Carpenter runs from one extreme to the other.Moss has been a huge dissappointment,Peralta inconsistent..Make something happen Mo.I am trying not to be a doom and gloom guy but when the other team gets a 2 run lead it seems like the game is over.Great pitching and feeble hitting still won`t win anything.You still got to score.Worrying about blocking Matt Adams is a jokeM Mo.Get on the phone Mo and help save this team before the Cards pull a 1964 Phillies fold.

    • Brian Walton says:

      I don’t think that is true. I think they are trying to win.

      They have lost two games in a row in an ugly manner – but are coming off six straight series wins.

    • crdswmn says:

      It’s impossible to know and pinpoint any specific “problem'” that needs to be fixed. There are many reasons a team can lose a baseball game. There can be multiple reasons going on in one game. Tired players, a few bad umpire calls, a manager who makes multiple bad strategic decisions, and some bad luck, just to name a few.

      Baseball is a complex game. Trying to pinpoint something to “fix” is a fool’s errand. Stuff happens.

  6. blingboy says:

    Piscotty has drawn even in homers with Belly Ball Boy at 4. In far fewer ABs. I must admit to being stunned by his offensive output. Pleasantly stunned, mind you. And no wall scrapers. Manly blasts. Maybe he will be encouraged to hit the gym this winter. Bulk up.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      The kid went to an elite academic school. He had to hit the books and no time for much else. Now out of school, Piscotty can invest time pumping iron, we hope without hurting himself the way Grichuk found a way to do. Piscotty has the frame to be able to add weight and strength. Right now, he looks comfortable in the majors. He was finding AAA pitchers more difficult to solve.

      • Brian Walton says:

        I am not sure you can say Piscotty “was finding AAA pitchers more difficult to solve.” He had 820 at bats in Triple-A compared to barely 100 in the bigs. Things are bound to even out a bit.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          It was a bit tongue in cheek. Its funny to think of how the better pitchers are down at AAA.

          820 at bats at the stingiest home park in the PCL is great prep for the majors.

          I think you are thinking about this in terms of a short term variability illusion. And since variability always exists, at all levels, this can be argued.

          Piscotty is a solid hitter for average, since he will stay inside the ball and use the whole field. He probably has held down his Memphis average by trying to slug more than normal for him. On reaching the majors, not much was expected of a rookie, so he kept things simple and has thrived being himself.

          Memphis hitters probably often average as highly in the majors as at AAA (provided they get past stage fright, a different small n illusion, and start to feel like they belong).

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