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Major League Baseball: it's a business

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Wide White: Major League Baseball: it's a business

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Major League Baseball: it's a business

I noticed some angst in the twittersphere yesterday over Fox Sports North's exclusive cable deal with the Minnesota Twins. This means that for the first time in years, Twins games won't be broadcast over the air for free. People are apparently upset that they can't watch Twins games without paying for a cable or satellite package.

I don't really understand the fuss. I mean, I understand being frustrated that you can't watch games for free any more. But let's be serious, professional baseball is a business. They don't owe us anything. Sure, it's in their best interest to keep their fans happy, but I don't think that's a problem.

First, 82% of Twin Cities residents have cable or satellite. Even when those with only basic cable (who don't get FSN) are removed, 75% of the population can still watch the games. With the 25% of those left, there's likely a relatively small number who regularly watched the Twins and will be impacted. Many sports fans already have cable simply for ESPN.

Second, the Twins will make more money with an exclusive deal with FSN than they would with WFTC (MY29). They're still reaching the large majority of their TV viewers and on top of that, those viewers are now paying to watch the games rather than getting them for free.

Baseball is a business. People complain about high ticket prices, but they can only charge what the market allows.

I think people view sports in some altruistic fashion that's a bit unrealistic. We think of trying to keep sports pure, as though the competition on the field is all that matters. But the reality is the rules will comply to demand. If there's demand for home runs, guidelines for balls and bats will be adjusted to make pitching harder and hitting easier. If the demand is for lower scores, the reverse will happen.

I love baseball. I love everything about the sport. I've umpired for the last 4 years, have seen games in 8 current (and 3 former) Major League ballparks, and would love to get to every ballpark. I've coached in the past and hope to coach my kids someday.

But professional baseball is a business. The teams owe it to their fans to treat them like any business would their customer, but we can't expect to get this product for free. In a world increasingly moving to cable TV, revenue from ads alone just aren't cutting it.

Lend the Twins some slack. More than half of MLB teams have gone exclusively to cable. If you want to keep Joe Mauer and company around and watch our team compete with the big guys, you've got to be open to the organization making revenue in any way possible. Unfortunately for us cheapskates (and general non-TV watchers), that means we'll have to go to the ballpark if we want to watch the Twins on a Sunday afternoon.

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Anonymous Bill Roehl declared,

I don't disagree with much of what you said. I still don't think it was the right move.

2/17/2011 8:33 AM  
Blogger Jamie declared,

I'm disappointed. I know we don't even have a way to watch the basic channels right now, so perhaps my feelings are a bit silly, but I don't like the decision that was made. I especially think of my parents, who will likely never pay for cable, but do enjoy watching the game. I have good memories of watching games as a family and am sad that to have these same memories with our kids we'll have to pay for cable, which I don't see happening.

2/17/2011 9:08 AM  

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