After an intense series of live sports events online — from the U.S. Open and NBA playoffs to Wimbledon and the Tour de France — it’s an odd sensation to hit a black-out window for the 83rd All-Star Game. If you’re in the U.S. and you want to watch the midsummer classic live, the only legal option is Fox.
MLB.TV warns subscribers from the start that some games are blacked out, including nationally televised Fox and ESPN games; Tuesday night’s game in Kansas City is one of them. Based on tweets about MLB.TV, it looks like a lot of people skip the fine print or assume the All-Star Game is an exception.
Damn it, MLB TV. I just want to watch the All Star game at home. That is why I bought MLB TV. But nooo, you have to black it out. Grrrr..
— Dan_Rowinski (@Dan_Rowinski) July 11, 2012
It’s only a video blackout. The audio is being streamed on MLB Gameday Radio, a subscription product that runs $20 for the season and post-season. Stats are online and on mobile. (I haven’t seen any unauthorized feeds yet but if this is like any other event, if there’s a will, there’s a way until rightsholder whac-a-mole takes them out.)
It’s not an issue for me. This sports geek household planned dinner at home with the ASG in mind. But the black-out window is a reminder that even though NBC Sports plans to stream thousands of hours live from the Olympics in a few weeks and even though tens of thousands of hours of sports are streamed live now, we are nowhere near a time when all televised sports are available across platforms.
And that’s not likely to happen until the leagues, the programmers, the distributors and advertisers find a way to make cross-platform viewing as valuable as broadcast or cable. Even when events are streamed, most require authentication through a pay TV subscription — as is the case with the Olympics and Wimbledon — or a subscription fee for a package like Tour de France Live.
In some cases, even paying for TV isn’t enough. As a Charter household, we can watch broadband network ESPN3 on computers but not streaming linear networks ESPN and ESPN2 because Charter lacks a WatchESPN app deal. That’s one reason sports fans are among the least likely to cut the cord all the way.
At least this game, unlike those only on cable networks, is available to anyone who can get the Fox signal.
— Adam Jackson (@adamjackson) July 10, 2012
Another reason this blackout stands out: the 83rd All-Star Game may be the most digital ever in many respects. Major League Baseball and its teams have been hyping social media, especially Twitter (#ASG), like crazy. Fans who want to play All-Star Bingo can earn cards by sharing them with friends with a trip to the World Series as the grand prize and free days of MLB.TV for runners up. Everything — from last week’s intense Final Vote contest to All-Star Bingo and more — was designed with one goal in mind: sending fans to their TVs and keeping them tuned in throughout the game, even if takes other screens to do it.
— MLB (@MLB) July 11, 2012