MLB’s Latest Playoff Move a Head Scratcher

Major League Baseball has announced its playoff broadcast partners for the year 2012 and 2013, and normally that would seem to be a rather innocuous announcement, until you notice that it will be broadcasting two of the games itself.

Rather the MLB Network, which is a property of MLB, will get two of the games, and not the Wild Card games that have been added to the schedule but two of the more desirable division series games. It has also awarded the Wild Card games to TBS.

I had taken a glance at the release on the playoffs but did give it much thought until it was mentioned by Michael Hiestand over at USA Today. He points out that while the NFL broadcasts some of its own games, they are regular season games and they are shown locally on broadcast TV so that the home town fans can watch.

This strikes me as a very short sighted and backwards move. They risk alienating home town fans by a refusal to follow the NFL’s example of at least throwing a bone to the locals.

But more so is that with the still limited reach of the MLB Network they miss out nationally on appealing to fans. There is really no real incentive for a fan of baseball that is not a fan of the teams involved in the selected games to offer to pay for the privilege of watching two teams that they are uninterested in. I suspect that if the fans had the option of just tuning in on regular broadcasting of the game they likely would.

A last tidbit is that according to the USA Today piece baseball’s national television rights will be up for bid again in 2013, and networks might not want to increase their fees if premier portions of the sport are going to be broadcast by MLB. This will be interesting to see if MLB backs down or alters the plan by the time the playoffs reach us.

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