Bob Bowman is the president and CEO of MLB Advanced Media, and is a front-runner to become the next commissioner of the league following Bud Selig’s impending retirement. But while MLBAM has made plenty of strides with Bowman at the helm, one thing remains the elephant in the room – in-market streaming and blackouts.

I’m sure you all know the refrain on blackouts by now – you can’t watch games on any streaming device if you’re in an arbitrary “blackout zone” for each team, regardless of whether or not you get the RSN in question on your cable package. This leads to situations like fans in Iowa and Las Vegas getting blacked out of six different teams’ games for no real reason. It’s a terrible, antiquated system that punishes viewers for something that is completely out of their control and offers no legal alternatives to get around the blackouts.

But Bowman wants to fix that issue, proclaiming that getting rid of blackouts would be a nice sendoff for Selig. Bowman wants to replicate the Blue Jays’ model of in-market streaming for the 29 other clubs, but the difficulty in getting everyone on board will be extremely difficult.

If you’re unfamiliar the Rogers system, here it is in a nutshell – Rogers customers can stream content online through a service called Anyplace, but only the content that airs on the networks they subscribe to. Essentially, it’s the WatchESPN/NBC Live Extra model – if you’re a Rogers subscriber with a cable package that includes SportsNet and SportsNet One, you’re good. If not, you’re out of luck. Sorry, Bell and Shaw subscribers!

While that model is an admirable goal for MLB league-wide, because at least it’s better than nothing, there are several holes in this plan. First off, the plan works in Canada for two reasons – the Blue Jays hold territorial rights for the entire country, and Rogers owns them. It’s easy for Rogers to do whatever they want – they own the country, the club, and the network. There’s no team in Vancouver, Montreal, Edmonton, or any other Canadian city that is getting screwed over by Rogers’ streaming plan with the Blue Jays, though select provinces are also blacked out of other MLB teams’ games

In America, the situation is just a little different. No cable conglomerates own teams like Rogers does with the Blue Jays, though Liberty Media owns the Braves and non-controlling shares in CenturyLink and Charter. Furthermore, the opportunity for petty garbage between carriers would be high. Would Comcast not allow a Verizon or DirecTV customer to stream a Phillies, Giants, A’s, or Astros game? Would Time Warner do the same thing with the Dodgers?

What about the aforementioned people in Iowa and Las Vegas that are getting it from all ends? Would they have access to all of the teams they’re blacked out of, or would the providers limit the streaming to just the direct markets that are effected?

There has really been no progress on a plan, and no details aside from these quotes by Bowman have surfaced. What worries me about what we’ve learned so far is the probability that this turns into another show of power by the networks and cable providers. Is Comcast going to try to flex their muscle and not allow an Orioles fan in Baltimore to stream games on MASN? Will anyone in Los Angeles aside from Time Warner customers be able to stream the Dodgers?

More questions than answers remain. Blackouts aren’t going to completely disappear, but at least we’re having the discussion now instead of watching MLB bury its head in the sand and pretend there is no issue.

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.