For those who don't know, I reside in Maryland, which is, according to MLS, is D.C. United TV territory. Why do I mention this? Well today's playoff match is nationally broadcast on Univision Deportes. Since this is a Spanish station, MLS decided it would be smart to have an English language broadcast available, so CSN-Mid Atantic (DC) and MSG (NY) are the local stations for the New York Red Bulls - D.C. United game. The game is also available on mlssoccer.com and MLS Live. That's all well and good, unless you are in a situation like mine.
Where I live, there is only one choice of cable company (unless you are OK with giving a ton of money to Directv every month and have a decent signal). This is not an uncommon occurrence in the US. In my case, my cable provider doesn't have contracts with CSN-Mid Atlantic or Univision. That means I can't watch the game locally on TV. You would think that would mean, since MLS has lifted blackout restrictions for the playoffs, that I would be able to watch on-line. Well, you'd be wrong. Here's why I can't legally watch today's playoff game live.
|Method to Watch||Reason why I can't legally watch|
|CSN-Mid Atlantic||I don't get the channel through my cable provider.|
|Univision Deportes||I don't get the channel through my cable provider.|
|Mlssoccer.com||Since I live in the "region" of CSN-Mid Atlantic, I'm blacked out.|
|MLS Live (which I pay for)||Since I live in the "region" of CSN-Mid Atlantic, I'm blacked out.|
I literally have no other option if I wish to watch the game legally, and that doesn't make sense in 2014. The regional blackout is left over from the earliest instances of sports internet streaming. It was meant to protect the local companies as losing local viewers to on-line streaming could lead to a loss of ad revenue, since that revenue is usually tied to the size of the audience (using Nielsen ratings, which are a bad metric in and of themselves). In 2014, with the ever changing landscape of more and more people "cutting the cord" from cable TV (this author is looking to do the same), this methodology doesn't make sense. People are willing to pay for content (like MLS Live). They don't want to pay for more crap than they need (like 200+ channels I'll never watch).
MLS (and by extension MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL) are doing themselves a disservice. It's time to force local companies to stop blackouts. It's time to tell the national companies (ESPN, NBC, FOX, Univision) that they are required to provide an on-line option. For a league looking to grow into a top ten league in the world (and break into the top 4 in the US), keeping up with something as stupid as a regional blackout is going to cost them fans. With the league expanding to 20 teams next year, and eventually 24, issues like this are not going to look good. MLS doesn't have the fan base of the other "top 4" leagues to get away with continuing to screw fans over in this manner.