In a few moments the Baltimore Orioles will take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a game that will be shown on FOX television. However not all Orioles’ fans will have the opprotunity to see the game, as FOX is also showing the game between the Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates. The mid-Atlantic region will in effect be split in two, as people that live in the Washington DC television market will see the Nats, and the people in the Baltimore television market will see the O’s. (The complete coverage map can be seen here.)
When the Nationals came to DC, both the Orioles and Nationals were given territorial rights in both cities. I won’t go into this ad hoc, however the gist is that both teams will be televised in both cities. However in this case both cities’ FOX affiliates are obviously bound to show that city’s local team. Again without going into too much detail regarding the bylaws involved with MLB games on TV, the agreement between the league and FOX prohibits the following:
- Regional sports networks (such as MASN) from televising games simultaneous to FOX’s games
- FOX games from being shown on the MLB Extra Innings package
- Any network other than FOX televising a game that is being televised by FOX (Translated, this means that MASN couldn’t televise the game as well as FOX.)
In a nutshell, unless you live in the immediate Baltimore TV market, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, or in another part of the region that’ll get the O’s, you have no way of seeing the game. The same is true in reverse for the Nationals. Any DC fans that happen to live closer to Baltimore or on the Eastern Shore of Maryland have no way of seeing their team play.
This is not an Orioles vs. Nationals column, as both fan bases are in the same boat in a sense. I like MLB’s FOX Saturday Baseball programming a lot, however I do think that the program should involve two minor caveats: either FOX cannot televise two teams within the same region, or they allow for the other game to air on another station. Speaking to the first point, that would mean that FOX would be unable to televise both the Orioles and Nationals, Yankees and Mets, Cubs and White Sox, A’s and Giants, etc. at the same time. However that second point would come into play if FOX insisted on still being able to televise the two teams. They would have to allow the other game to be farmed out to another station. In this case, perhaps channel 20 in DC could carry FOX’s feed of the Orioles game while channel 54 in Baltimore could carry FOX’s feed of the Nats.
The blackout on MLB Extra Innings is a problem also. On any other day if you were an Orioles fan in Bethesda, MD. you could go to your neighborhood sports bar and see the O’s (provided that they have MLB Extra Innings of course). However FOX blacks their games out for that program, which makes no sense. This apparently is set to change in 2014 as they’ll be allowed, however what FOX and MLB is mandating is that fans get in their cars and drive to an area that’s showing the game. Ultimately it’s the fans that suffer in these situations, however that’s the business side of sports I suppose.