Last year I became one of the thousands, if not millions, of cord cutters who ditched their cable/satellite subscriptions and instead put a fraction of that money to use by subscribing to on demand services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon Instant Video, or simply redirected that money towards more practical things like food, gas and medical bills. For me in particular, I opted to purchase a Roku box, a Netflix subscription, an MLB.TV subscription as well as watching over-the-air TV. Although I had unexpected and mixed results, it was clear that I could not follow the bulk of live Los Angeles Angels games on television without paying my cable or satellite company. Instead I had to resort to watching the occasional local broadcast or paying $120 to watch the glitchy archived games via MLB.TV on my Roku device. I wondered how the 2011 season would unfold for me.
Well, the 2011 season is already underway, and this year I made a decision to hold off on paying the $120 to MLB.TV so that I could observe how other subscribers would respond to the spotty and imperfect service. It didn't take long to discover that the number of complaints about the service was already accumulating rapidly like Pittsburgh losses. Still, I might consider subscribing to the service midway through the season when the price drops significantly.
In the meantime, I'm only watching live games on the local broadcasts and listening to games on radio. Additionally, I'll watch archived condensed games, game recaps and highlights on MLB.com. All of this is without cost. So far after a few weeks, I really haven't missed watching the games all that much, especially with radio broadcasts available for every game. If anything, this is the way it was when I grew up following games in the 80's sans the internet. During that time, games were typically only broadcast on television during the weekends, so you learned the art of listening to baseball on the radio. I've found that as much as I love baseball, I don't really need to watch every single game anymore. This is coming from someone who lives and breathes baseball year-round.
The blackout policy with MLB.tv is a raw deal for consumers because it essentially forces consumers to purchase a cable or satellite subscription or else watch most of their in-market games as archived games via MLB.tv, since a much smaller percentage of games are broadcast over the air for free. So if you're a cord cutter like me, ask yourself if it's really worth paying $600 a year just to watch every one of your local team's games? Not for me and especially not in this economy. Neither does MLB really have any motivation to change such arrangements--not when teams are reaping multi-million dollar television contracts year after year. In the end, consumers, in particular the cordcutters, are the losers and big businesses are the winners. And here's the irony, I would gladly pay $120 directly to FOX in order to watch in-market games on FOX Sports West (FOX doesn't currently offer such an online service), but if I subscribed to cable or satellite (currently the only option for all live broadcasts), my cable or satellite provider would only pay FOX perhaps $2 dollars for my subscription while passing the cost on to me. It's time for FOX to move beyond the current cable/satellite deals of the past and begin offering their own subscription-based online service.