Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Online (Dis)Content

Anyone who knows me probably knows that I'm a huge baseball fan. That starts with the Blue Jays, of course, but it extends to the entire baseball world. In fact, what sets baseball apart from other sports for me is that unlike professional hockey, basketball, or soccer, which I also enjoy, I can watch any baseball game and enjoy it, whether I have a rooting interest or not. As a baseball fan, the idea of an international tournament of the best baseball players is right up there in appeal with a Jays game or MLB postseason.

Enter the World Baseball Classic. The event is far from perfect; there are very low pitch caps on pitchers and many of the best players beg out every year, unlike Olympic hockey or the FIFA World Cup, but it's the best international tournament around, and at this time of year I'll take any meaningful games I can get. Unfortunately, getting it is the problem. In Canada, the games are available exclusively on Rogers Sportsnet, with no online feed available.

I actually happen to have Rogers cable, and I get the Sportsnet channels. However, in my room where I watch most of my TV, I don't have a cable box or outlet. That's not usually a problem since I literally never watch broadcast TV. My TV viewing comes from DVDs and blu-rays, Netflix, and other online sources. Last year I bought MLB.tv for the first time, allowing me to watch all the non-Jays games online. As a cable customer, Rogers makes the Jays games available to me through their online service, as well as some Leafs games. With past Olympics, World Cups, and Euro tournaments I have been able to watch online, either for free or for a nominal fee. I do it all legally, as I long ago swore off pirating content. I'm not so poor that I can't afford to pay for what I want, and I feel like great services like MLB.tv deserve to be compensated.

If the World Baseball Classic was available via online feeds, I would happily pay a nominal fee to watch. The tournament is operated by MLB, which has the fantastic MLB.tv infrastructure at its disposal. I'm sure Rogers could also make the game available online, if they wanted. However, there is no legal way for me to stream the tournament. This is 2013, where every major sporting league or event seems to be available online, except for this one. Personally, I think MLB should be embarrassed.

MLB has had a hard time gaining traction with the WBC. This won't help. I really, really want to care about this tournament, but they're not making it easy. I might negotiate for use of a TV with a cable box for some games involving Canada, the USA, or the Dominican Republic (who feature a couple of Jays), but other than that I suspect the inconvenience of it all will keep me away. Meanwhile, the many people without cable TV (and I've seen plenty on Twitter) are frozen out completely.

If this tournament fails, MLB has nobody to blame but themselves.

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