Vlad Guerrero Jr.
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Blue Jays games will be blacked out on MLB.TV in Canada

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Canadian MLB.TV subscribers received an email yesterday that informed them that Blue Jays games will no longer be able to be streamed live on the league’s streaming service. Those wishing to stream Jays games will now need to subscribe to Sportsnet NOW, a streaming service provided by the broadcasting network that carries Jays games on television.

As Andrew Stoeten wrote in The Athletic, Canadian subscribers were unable to view the Jays live on MLB.TV until the mid 2010’s, when the restriction was lifted. MLB.TV subsequently became a popular purchase for Canadian fans.

Sportsnet is owned by Rogers Media, which also owns the Jays. Clearly this is meant to be a moneymaking opportunity for Rogers, but it’s remarkably shortsighted and petty.

Sportsnet NOW comes at a comparable price to MLB.TV, but it doesn’t carry the whole league. By encouraging fans to subscribe to MLB.TV. you also encourage them to check out baseball as a whole and grow love of the game. And for those fans who are already avid MLB.TV watchers and enjoy the full scope of baseball, they now have to shell out for a second streaming service that isn’t on as many devices as the app they already use.

MLB.TV’s blackout restrictions have long been the source of ire from customers. You can check exact blackouts for each ZIP code here. Fans in Iowa in particular have been vocal about their dissatisfaction. Plugging in a ZIP code from Des Moines spits out a result saying that customers there can’t watch six (!) teams live. That’s bad news if you’re a fan of the Cubs, White Sox, Royals, Twins, Brewers or Cardinals. Why Iowans wouldn’t be allowed to stream games being played by a team from Minnesota is beyond me.

Similarly, Hawaiian customers are also barred from live coverage of six teams. Sorry, you simply can’t stream the Angels, Dodgers, A’s, Padres, Mariners or Giants if you live in Hawaii. Moving to Alaska won’t help you if you’re a Mariners fan, either. They’re blacked out up there too.

It’s all very silly. I understand why the blackouts exist. They want you to watch the games on TV or subscribe to the relevant cable network’s streaming app, so that the sports networks make money. But in an age of cord-cutting, it’s unnecessarily aggravating. It’s also counterintuitive to growing the game.

Sorry, Canada. Looks like you’re getting screwed here.

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Red Sox employees “livid” over team pay cut plan

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Even Drellich of The Athletic reports that the Boston Red Sox are cutting the pay of team employees. Those cuts, which began to be communicated last night, apply to all employees making $50,000 or more. They are tiered cuts, with people making $50-99,000 seeing salary cut by 20%, those making $100k-$499,000 seeing $25% cuts and those making $500,000 or more getting 30% cuts.

Drellich reported that a Red Sox employee told him that “people are livid” over the fact that those making $100K are being treated the same way as those making $500K. And, yes, that does seem to be a pretty wide spread for similar pay cuts. One would think that a team with as many analytically-oriented people on staff could perhaps break things down a bit more granularly.

Notable in all of this that the same folks who own the Red Sox — Fenway Sports Group — own Liverpool FC of the English Premier League, and that just last month Liverpool’s pay cut/employee furlough policies proved so unpopular that they led to a backlash and a subsequent reversal by the club. That came after intense criticism from Liverpool fan groups and local politicians. Sox owner John Henry must be confident that no such backlash will happen in Boston.

As we noted yesterday, The Kansas City Royals, who are not as financially successful as the Boston Red Sox, have not furloughed employees or cut pay as a result of baseball’s shutdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps someone in Boston could call the Royals and ask them how they managed that.