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April 23, 2011

Baseball Attendance is down. Why MLB isn’t worried?

Filed under: MLB — The Wizard @ April 23, 2011 2:00 pm

Dickey @ Deadspin:

The implication is that baseball is somehow struggling, that in a depressed economy people have turned away from the sport. Maybe there’s something to that, but the simple truth is that attendance is no longer the most accurate bellwether for the state of the game. Focusing on the empty seats ignores something vastly more important to baseball’s owners now, something that at least partly explains the league’s famously tight-assed and backward approach to new media: cable TV.

… The blackout’s iron fist protects cable sports networks. Whereas NFL blackouts exist to protect attendance—games with unsold tickets don’t air in the home market—the MLB blackout policy has nothing to do with ticket sales. Rather, it exists to strengthen cable broadcasters (regional sports networks, or RSNs) of baseball games. You have to subscribe to cable or satellite television to watch a baseball game if the team is within, really, a 10-hour drive.

… Moreover, Brown says, RSN revenues fall outside of what MLB considers baseball-related revenues, so their dollars don’t factor into revenue sharing. Why wouldn’t the Yankees or Mets want to do it, then?

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