Blue Jays’ president Mark Shapiro did a Q & A with Greg Chisholm of the Toronto Star on the weekend, and shed some light on the MLB.TV announcement from last week.
I really don’t like admitting when I’m wrong, but sometimes it’s necessary to do just that, and maybe even apologize.
So here goes: I’m sorry that I assumed that Rogers Communications was the cause of the recent announcement regarding the Blue Jays being blacked out on MLB.TV for the upcoming season. You know what they say about folks who make assumptions, and I just provided another example why you should always do a little more research before spouting off.
Like many Blue Jays fans last week, I was upset to learn that I cannot watch the Blue Jays on MLB.TV this season, as I have for the past several years. I jumped to the conclusion that Rogers, who own the Blue Jays, either wanted out of the MLB.TV deal in order to push more customers to their own Sportsnet Now streaming service, or perhaps the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement that worked for both parties. As it turns out, the decision was actually made by Major League Baseball, which was revealed by Blue Jays’ President and CEO, Mark Shapiro.
Shapiro sat down with the Toronto Star’s Gregor Chisholm for a one on one interview that was published on the weekend, and it outlined several interesting things around the team as we approach a new season. Eventually the MLB.TV situation came up with Chisholm asking if the decision was made in regard’s to “local streaming rights”, which gave Shapiro a chance to clear things up.
"“When it comes to MLB.TV … we were the only market that didn’t have a local blackout on MLB.TV. That was just a unique (situation). We were the only merchandise house that wasn’t serviced by Fanatics until last year. We did our own merch until last year. Every other major league team, Fanatics had a deal with MLB.“So, the Canadian market is sometimes carved out, and sometimes it just lags behind the way MLB treats it, because of the unique regulatory systems and other policies that impact doing business in Canada. Now they’ve just transitioned the exact same approach for us as every other major league team. The way we’re being treated now, the other 29 markets have all had the exact same circuit. You could go to Baltimore, Detroit, you can go to L.A. or Chicago or Boston or Dallas, and they’ve all had the exact same thing where they’re incapable of watching through MLB.TV, they’re incapable of watching their local stream. They can still get it through their (regional sports network), which is the same as us.”"
Yeah.. again, my bad.
I will stand by the point that I made in the original article though, which is just how short sighted this decision seems to me. I argued that I thought this was a foolish move on the part of Rogers because they should be trying to generate as much excitement as possible around this talented and rebuilding team, especially after such a difficult off-season for the league.
Now that we know that it was MLB that came to the decision, I’d argue that’s even worse for the optics for Canadian baseball fans. The MLB office really came across as out of touch with the way they’ve handled the Houston Astro’s sign-stealing scandal over the winter, and now they’ve just proven how little they know, or maybe care about the Canadian market with this decision. I completely understand that regional blackouts need to exist in some capacity, as that’s just the nature of business, and I get that the league wanted to make things fair for the other 29 teams who were at a disadvantage in this way compared to the Blue Jays. But is it really necessary to do a country-wide blackout, when many Western Canadian fans are far closer to markets like Colorado or Seattle?
As Shapiro mentioned, it’s a unique situation with the Blue Jays being the only market outside of the United States, but you’d think the league office could come up with a more appropriate solution than this. Regardless, we now know that it wasn’t Blue Jays’ ownership that caused the problem, so I’ll again offer my apologies to Rogers, and I’ll have a (slightly) easier time signing up to use their service this season instead.