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MLB Advanced Media Blows the Save

Posted on June 8, 2006

A little while back I wrote a post about how MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) was doing some great things in the new media space. I was very impressed by their efforts. I emphasize the word was in the previous sentence because recent news has shaken my once very positive opinion of MLBAM. Adam pointed an article out to me over in the VentureWeek community forum that reviewed a debate between George Kliavkoff, executive VP of business for MLBAM, and Rich Buchanan, Sling Media’s VP of marketing, at the recently held Digital Media Summit.

SlingMediaFor those who don’t know, Sling Media produces a piece of gear (shown) that allows TV viewers to access their cable boxes and TiVos from anywhere with their web enabled devices. This is a very cool technology as it allows people, who are already paying for the content, to view it anywhere they want. For example, if I still lived in Boston and was away on business I could still tune into my cable at home from my laptop to watch my beloved Red Sox (who romped the Yanks tonight!). What’s wrong with that you may ask? Well, nothing should be wrong with it. I am paying for that content and just because I am not home to watch it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be able to. I’m not stealing here. I pay good money for access to cable TV. Well, MLBAM sees things a bit differently.

MLBAM is upset because Sling essentially cuts out cable and satellite providers who pay a lot of money for transmission rights in certain areas. Since Baseball sells these transmission rights for certain areas they view Sling users as stealing content from local providers. MLBAM counters any rational claim that the user has paid for the content they are viewing with Sling by stating that the user is in violation of the scope of their terms of service if they do use Sling. This is very interesting. A terms of service that limits how I can use content I have paid for (well, those are pretty common I guess). I am going to look into my terms of service for Comcast here in Chicago to see what I have actually agreed to.

MLBAM is being very short sighted with this viewpoint and, will no doubt, alienate some fans. Content should be able to be viewed when, where and how the consumers want it and consumers will find a way to do that regardless of imposed restrictions. Allowing me to only view my cable TV while at home seems very silly. It would be like Apple saying you can only listen to music you purchased from iTunes in your home even though you have a device that makes that content portable. Art Brodsky, spokesman for Public Knowledge, brought up a great point when he said that allowing people to use Sling actually instills loyalty to local cable operators and the advertisers that support their programming. Now, even if I am in Thailand, my home advertisers can still reach me. That is powerful.

Sling’s Buchanan sums things up nicely when he says:

…I’d hate to be a lawyer arguing that I want consumers to pay twice for content.

MLBAM, you need to wake up and see that content, especially paid content, should be available when, where and how the purchaser wants it. If you don’t make it happen, the users will.

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  1. […] MLB Advanced Media continues to make me look stupid for praising their brilliant moves in new media (i.e. showing baseball and other sports online for a fee). First, they went after slingbox and effectively said that people should have to pay twice for content. Now, they (along with the MLBPA) think that baseball players names and historical statistics should be copyrightable. Their main gripe is that there are fantasy baseball leagues who profit from the use of player names and stats by charging users to use their fantasy baseball services. Apparently MLBAM thinks they should a) get a cut of this money or b) wall the information off and only allow MLBAM’s Fantasy League product or c) a combination of a and b. […]