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kid-watching-tvAmong the most frustrating things baseball fans have battled in recent years is the Fox Saturday baseball problem. On the one hand, it’s great that there are national games that allow fans to see teams they might not otherwise be able to see, but if your team happened to also be playing, and happened to also be a Fox game, you were screwed. Why? Because if it wasn’t the game Fox had selected for your region, you were blacked out from watching it in any other way. MLB.tv? No dice. Extra Innings? Nope.

Well, that looks like it’s going to change, as MLB and Fox have relaxed their blackout restrictions as part of the new national deal kicking in this season. As reported by Maury Brown, if you’ve got MLB.tv or Extra Innings, you will now be able to use those services to watch the other Fox games on Saturdays. Huzzah!

The Fox deal kicking in this year also dramatically increases the number of games on Fox (and Fox Sports 1) from 26 to 52, most of which will be on Saturdays, including 20 doubleheaders. Currently, there are just three Cubs games on the schedule: May 3 against the Cardinals, June 21 against the Pirates, and June 28 against the Nationals. By contrast, the Cardinals have 10 games, the Reds have 8 games, and the Pirates have 7 games. Lesson? Be better at baseball if you want national exposure. No surprise there.

Back to the blackouts. As I’ve written/speculated before, there would be a larger issue when it comes to doing away with blackouts based on territorial rights (i.e, the reason you poor folks in Iowa can’t watch like six teams on MLB.tv). I’ve always surmised that at least part of the reason regional sports networks are willing to pay such exorbitant rates for the rights to broadcast a local team’s games is because they know, once they secure those rights, they will be the only way local fans can watch their team. If fans could just buy MLB.tv and otherwise cut the cable cord, would the cable providers pay huge carriage fees for the RSN’s channel? And, if not, would the RSN pay such a huge fee to get the rights to the games? If blackout restrictions were completely dropped, I think there would be an impact on these huge TV deals.

That is obviously of significant interest to the Cubs as they look ahead to negotiating TV rights on a little less than half of their games (the WGN rights expire after this season) in the near-term, and the full slate of rights (the CSN rights expire after 2019) in the longer-term. If blackouts have changed drastically by then? Maybe the Cubs can’t cash in quite as enormously.

  • Spoda17

    WOOT!!! The Saturday game thing really used to piss me off… The dog is going to love this change… no more Saturday kicks-in-the-ballz!

  • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

    With our luck the blackouts will kickin after 2019 it’s just seems too likely just like the CBA happening right after we get a front office and owner that would have spent a ton on the draft to get the right players and made having a crappy season the best way to get top players from the draft.

    • Jon

      If not for the new CBA restrictions, we would have one more Shawon Dunston, Trevor Gretzky and Dillon Maples in our system. Talk about a game changer.

      • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

        You do know the difference between that draft and future drafts and it’s not about the CBA?

  • OCCubFan

    Is it likely that the Dodgers TV rights contracts have an “out” if the blackout restrictions are significantly altered?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Fantastic question. If Time Warner had good lawyers, I’d think so. Maybe not a full “out,” but a consideration.

      • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

        Wow that could destroy teams that have spent because of those TV contracts.

  • Cubbie in NC

    That is great news. It is terrible living where you have no MLB teams in the state, and still get your team blacked out.

    It is bad enough that I have to listen to the Braves and Nationals announcers, but the Saturday black outs were sending me over the top…

  • Patrick W.

    This is excellent news for me!

  • kridertr

    I don’t care if it costs the cubs money if it takes away blackouts. Blackouts are like my number 3 thing I hate right behind hitler and mustard. Lol

    • Patrick W.

      Mustard is just the worst.

      • Seth

        You guys are crazy.

      • Edwin

        But what do you put on a sandwhich?

    • Seth

      What the heck do you put on a hot dog/brat then?

      • Fishin Phil

        Mustard if just for wurst.

        That looks better to me.

        • DarthHater

          Wurst pun ever.

          • Porkslap

            I thought it was punny.

      • Patrick W.

        I put nothing on a hot dog or brat. NOTHING!

  • itzscott

    Hold on there Babalooie (Quick Draw McGraw’s buddy)….

    Does the lifting of blackouts only apply to Fox games?

    For example, if a Cub game isn’t a Fox regional broadcast will that game still be blacked out?

    Are we really just celebrating 3 Saturday Cub games that now won’t be blacked out but all the other Saturday Cub non-Fox broadcasts still will??

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Other Cubs games can be picked up by Fox throughout the year, so it could end up being more than three. The pleasure is about the precedent and the long-term, not just 2014.

  • cking6178

    Thank God!! I don’t understand why MLB doesn’t just follow the same guidelines as the NFL….If it’s a national game – national, not regional – then there is only one place to watch it, otherwise let the fans watch whichever game they choose….especially those of us that pay for Extra Innings or MLB.Tv…It’d be wonderful if MLB followed NFL lead w/Sunday ticket too, allowing me to buy Extra Innings and have access to watch games on my devices…Get this, I’d be willing to pay a little extra for the convenience…

    • Eternal Pessimist

      …or just arrange for a game of the week (or two) to be the only games on at that time to give exclusivity.

      Remember what happened to the Blackhawks following when the broadcasts were pay per view? No one cared abot them anymore.

  • Brocktoon

    Call me what you will considering I live in chicago and can watch 162 a year, but every news about blackouts being lifted is terrible news for the cubs. If the cubs lose out on a big tv deal so some guy in Des Moines can watch all the games I’m going to hate the state of Iowa even more than I already do

  • itzscott

    >> but every news about blackouts being lifted is terrible news for the cubs. <<

    I'll call you nuts!….

    When a team is able to tap into a market outside of their own market, they've increased their universe of potential viewers…..the more eyeballs, the more they can charge for advertising to an expanded demographic.

    If you're a major market team, like Chicago, this is a huge advantage.

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