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Sports Ratings Report for Week of October 6-12 and Weekend Sports Ratings for October 18-19

So I’m all set to start doing the Sports Ratings Highlights again so I don’t have to post the with-locals numbers for MNF on Twitter, and what happens? This week’s Top 25 syndicated shows on TVbytheNumbers doesn’t have MNF on it. Just my luck.

The National League playoffs may be reaping benefits for FS1’s college football coverage. Two games between one-loss teams attracted over a million viewers on Saturday. West Virginia only pulled away from Baylor in the fourth quarter to score the upset, but Oregon simply blew Washington out of the water, taking a 28-6 lead into halftime and never looking back, and that game still attracted 1.13 million viewers, only 32,000 less than Missouri-Florida on ESPN2 at the same time (admittedly that game was an even bigger blowout in favor of the Tigers).

Click here to learn more about how to read the charts. Read More »

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 7

Now with full list of protections!

NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that even with the bit about the early flexes, this was written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 5
  • In effect during Weeks 5-17
  • Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks starting Week 11, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 in 2006 and 2011, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5. As I understand it, during the Week 5-10 period the NFL and NBC declare their intention to flex out a game two weeks in advance, at which point CBS and Fox pick one game each to protect.
  • In the past, three teams could appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC. I don’t know how the expansion of the Thursday Night schedule affects this, if it does. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; ten teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Packers, Bears, 49ers, Steelers, and Saints don’t have games in the main flex period, and all have games in the early flex period. I don’t know if both of the games scheduled for 12/20 count towards the total, or only the one in primetime. A list of all teams’ number of appearances is in my Week 5 post.

Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 16):

  • Tentative game: New England @ Indianapolis
  • Prospects: 5-2 v. 5-2; hard to imagine it losing its spot.
  • Protected games: Eagles-Packers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Lions-Cardinals is probably the best option. Seahawks-Chiefs is a very dark horse.

Week 12 (November 23):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 6-1 v. 3-4. This game is starting to look lopsided, but the Cowboys being flexed out of SNF would probably be a harbinger of the apocalypse, especially when they’re not the ones dragging it down.
  • Protected games: Dolphins-Broncos (CBS).
  • Other possible games: This was my only whiff on picking the protections; I had thought Fox would protect Cardinals-Seahawks or Lions-Patriots here, but those aren’t such huge games involving such big names as to justify reducing the chance of getting Cowboys-Giants back. Lions-Patriots is the best option; Cardinals-Seahawks is now only a dark horse.

Week 13 (November 30):

  • Tentative game: Denver @ Kansas City
  • Prospects: 5-1 v. 3-3. Not terribly lopsided at the moment, but doesn’t have the Cowboys invulnerability factor.
  • Protected games: Patriots-Packers (CBS) and Saints-Steelers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving weekend, paucity of good games, especially with Eagles-Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Browns-Bills is a dark horse, but Chargers-Ravens is really the only good option. Would that overcome the chance to have Peyton Manning on?

Week 14 (December 7):

  • Tentative game: New England @ San Diego
  • Prospects: 5-2 v. 5-2. Very strong to keep its spot.
  • Protected games: Steelers-Bengals (CBS) and Seahawks-Eagles (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Colts-Browns, Ravens-Dolphins, and Chiefs-Cardinals are dark horses, but only Bills-Broncos involves two teams over .500, and none of those are particularly appealing, especially given the tentative they’d have to unseat.

Week 15 (December 14):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ Philadelphia
  • Prospects: 6-1 v. 5-1 and an NFC East showdown. If form holds, this game has a mortal lock on this spot.
  • Protected games: Broncos-Chargers (CBS) and 49ers-Seahawks (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Packers-Bills is the only game involving two teams over .500, and it would require an absolute collapse by one or both tentative teams and that still might not be enough (as many Cowboys games past have shown). Bengals-Browns and Dolphins-Patriots are dark horses.

Week 16 (December 21):

  • Tentative game: Seattle @ Arizona
  • Prospects: 3-3 v. 5-1 is starting to look a mite lopsided, but what do you flex it out for?
  • Protected games: Colts-Cowboys (CBS) and Lions-Bears (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Chiefs-Steelers is your best option at 4-3 v. 3-3. Browns-Panthers is a very dark horse.

Week 17 (December 28):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 6

NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that even with the bit about the early flexes, this was written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 5
  • In effect during Weeks 5-17
  • Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks starting Week 11, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 in 2006 and 2011, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5. As I understand it, during the Week 5-10 period the NFL and NBC declare their intention to flex out a game two weeks in advance, at which point CBS and Fox pick one game each to protect.
  • In the past, three teams could appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC. I don’t know how the expansion of the Thursday Night schedule affects this, if it does. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; ten teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Packers, Bears, 49ers, Steelers, and Saints don’t have games in the main flex period, and all have games in the early flex period. I don’t know if both of the games scheduled for 12/20 count towards the total, or only the one in primetime. A list of all teams’ number of appearances is in my Week 5 post.

Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 16):

  • Tentative game: New England @ Indianapolis
  • Prospects: 4-2 v. 4-2; hard to imagine it losing its spot.
  • Likely protections: Probably nothing, but if anything Bengals-Saints (CBS) and 49ers-Giants or Eagles-Packers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Besides Fox’s unprotected game, Lions-Cardinals is a possibility, and Texans-Browns is a dark horse.

Week 12 (November 23):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 5-1 v. 3-3. This game could start looking lopsided, but the Cowboys being flexed out of SNF would probably be a harbinger of the apocalypse, especially when they’re not the ones dragging it down.
  • Likely protections: Dolphins-Broncos (CBS, confirmed) and Cardinals-Seahawks or Lions-Patriots (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Basically, the only real option is whatever game Fox didn’t protect, although Bengals-Texans is a dark horse.

Week 13 (November 30):

  • Tentative game: Denver @ Kansas City
  • Prospects: 4-1 v. 2-3. Also could start looking lopsided, and doesn’t have the Cowboys invulnerability factor.
  • Likely protections: Chargers-Ravens or Patriots-Packers (CBS) and Saints-Steelers (FOX, confirmed).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving weekend, paucity of good games, especially with Eagles-Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Browns-Bills is a dark horse, but CBS’ unprotected game is really the only good option. Would that overcome the chance to have Peyton Manning on?

Week 14 (December 7):

  • Tentative game: New England @ San Diego
  • Prospects: 4-2 v. 5-1. Very strong to keep its spot.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Bengals (CBS, confirmed) and Seahawks-Eagles (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Colts-Browns is an option, and Bills-Broncos is a dark horse, but none of those are particularly appealing, especially given the tentative they’d have to unseat.

Week 15 (December 14):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ Philadelphia
  • Prospects: 5-1 v. 5-1 and an NFC East showdown. If form holds, this game has a mortal lock on this spot.
  • Likely protections: Chargers-Broncos (CBS, confirmed) and 49ers-Seahawks (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Bengals-Browns is the only unprotected game involving two teams over .500, and it would require an absolute collapse by one or both tentative teams and that still might not be enough (as many Cowboys games past have shown). Packers-Bills and Texans-Colts are dark horses.

Week 16 (December 21):

  • Tentative game: Seattle @ Arizona
  • Prospects: 3-2 v. 4-1 makes for a pretty strong game, all things considered, especially given the alternatives.
  • Likely protections: Colts-Cowboys (CBS) and almost certainly nothing, but if anything Lions-Bears (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Browns-Panthers is the only real option at the moment, and it hardly is one. Ravens-Texans and Lions-Bears are dark horses.

Week 17 (December 28):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

Against the Tyranny of Nielsen

Last year, Nielsen announced that it would be adding “broadband-only homes” to its television ratings sample and viewing universe. This category consisted of people that not only didn’t subscribe to cable television, but didn’t even have an antenna to watch broadcast television, and thus couldn’t watch any programming on any platform that Nielsen normally measures, so their inclusion in the sample must have seemed superfluous and useless. As a result, ratings, and the estimated universe of people that could watch cable channels, fell. On the other hand, Nielsen also announced that starting this year, it would begin including online viewing of content in its TV ratings… so long as the ad load on those programs was exactly the same as when it aired live.

This unusual outcome is the result of the tension between Nielsen’s actual role in the television industry and the role it inadvertently fills as a result of it. Television networks pay Nielsen to tell them how many people are watching the ads accompanying their programming, because the ads are what are paying for the programming and the people who buy ad time want to know if they’re getting their money’s worth and where they should spend it if they want to. For most of Nielsen’s history, that meant measuring how many people were watching the programs, and as such Nielsen became the barometer for how popular America’s TV shows were.

As time-shifting became more popular, however, and as Nielsen’s measurement practices became more refined, these two purposes became increasingly at odds with one another. Today the currency in the TV industry is “C3″, or how many people are watching each minute of commercial time either live or within the first three days of DVR playback; some media buyers this year have adopted “C7″ as their currency, which is exactly what you think it is. In other words, if you fast-forward past the commercials, your viewing counts for jack all to the networks even if you’re in a Nielsen household. Neither of these are widely reported, but it doesn’t matter because most people do, in fact, fast-forward past the commercials, and waiting the amount of time it takes for the C3 or C7 ratings to come out isn’t always practical (especially if you have a ratings flop on your hands), so the live-plus-same-day ratings that are widely reported are good enough for most purposes. (Nielsen’s definition of “live” is so restrictive that there are enough same-day viewers watching enough commercials to be useful.)

Nielsen’s move to counting broadband-only homes is a direct response to criticism from outside the TV industry that Nielsen dramatically undercounts the true popularity of many shows, especially in the most valuable demographics, by not counting viewership on alternative platforms besides live TV and time-shifted DVR – an attitude that expects and assumes Nielsen to be primarily concerned with its role as barometer of shows’ popularity. But in order for measurement of online viewing to be in any way relevant to the networks that are only concerned about who’s watching the commercials they sold for those shows, Nielsen has to impose the bizarre “same ad load” requirement, which no network or online platform would put in place without the incentive of being counted in Nielsen ratings, preferring dynamic ad insertion techniques that can adjust based on a viewer’s location and Web browsing habits. I try to stay away from authenticated TV Everywhere services, but I did have occasion to use my Dad’s account to use WatchESPN recently, and I found that even there, even while watching the live feed of an ESPN channel that is supposed to be no different from watching it on television, the ads were not the same as on TV, meaning no one using WatchESPN could be counted in Nielsen ratings. Heck, there were one or two commercial breaks where no ads were inserted into the feed, and I still wasn’t getting the ads that were being shown on television, just a placeholder slide.

It is certainly true that the model of television on which Nielsen is based is becoming outdated, but the reality is that Nielsen shouldn’t have had to create such contortions to count online viewing towards its TV ratings, because no matter how many viewers aren’t being counted, as far as the networks are concerned, Nielsen is working exactly as it should. The problem is not that Nielsen is falling short on the goal it doesn’t really have to serve as barometer of the popularity of television shows; the problem is that that role is still relevant even though Nielsen should not really be concerned with filling it. The problem is that the success or failure of television shows is staked to a system that, structurally and by design, can only capture a fraction of its popularity. And this is not a problem with Nielsen, but with the networks.

The vast majority of big-budget, big-studio shows are still widely assumed to need a place on a linear television network’s schedule, to be underwritten by the network and distributed by them to the network’s audience. The network, however, only cares about the show – or at least, should only care about the show – insofar as the show can attract people to the advertisements they can intersperse throughout the show. If not enough people are watching it live to serve as a captive audience for the commercials, the network can and will cancel the show. If a show is on network television, its existence is dependent on the commercials the network airs, or else the network can cut bait and abandon the show, potentially driving it out of existence no matter how popular the show may be on platforms that don’t expose their audience to the same commercials.

Shows should not be dependent on this system, on networks that will stake the show’s existence to a particular set of commercials inserted into the network’s feed. The presence of a show on a linear television network, and thus a show’s ability to attract audiences to a linear network’s commercials, should not be a precondition for a show’s existence; rather, a show should have a presence on a linear network only if that network has reason to believe that they can sell commercials off it and attract the show’s audience to those commercials by giving them a reason to watch it “live”. We’re a long ways away from the day when a show’s presence on linear television is a recognition of its value to the network rather than a precondition of its existence – we’ll know that day has arrived when a show that originated on the Internet moves to linear TV rather than the other way around – but we’re at least seeing halting steps towards throwing off the tyranny of the linear networks and of Nielsen, through the original shows on Netflix and Amazon and through Yahoo’s recent move to give Community one last season. The arrangement between CBS and Amazon for Under the Dome also frees that show’s fate from being dependent on the Nielsen ratings, though as it happens the show has done quite well for CBS, especially for a summer show.

Just as I don’t think linear television is necessarily completely obsolete in the age of the Internet (and it may in fact be of paramount importance, if lessened compared to pre-Internet days), so I don’t think Nielsen needs to worry about its core business going under; even with the prospect of broadcast linear television colonizing mobile devices, given the appeal of that prospect to the consumer and the basic nature of the technology there will always be a place for Nielsen’s measurement methods so long as the transmission of advertising isn’t dependent on a two-way connection over the Internet. I only hope that, so long as linear television remains the primary mode of video consumption, Nielsen does not overly hobble the prospective future where it is not, and that by the time that future arrives both networks and ad buyers (and to some degree the public) will be fully aware of Nielsen’s limitations.

Weekend Sports Ratings for October 4-5

This post will eventually become home to the weekly ratings roundups I was doing for a while last year. For now, The Futon Critic lost its source for ratings a while back, and Douglas “SonOfTheBronx” Pucci has made up for it and then some on TV Media Insights, including some daytime cable shows not on the TVbytheNumbers list, and that was already making for some pretty crowded tweets on the weekends that made me start thinking about putting weekend ratings in the roundup post. Now he’s started including household ratings (and even 18-34 ratings!) for broadcast and cable shows, which has started making even my weekday tweets too crowded to bother with. I’m not even going to attempt it with the weekend, even though I’m way behind where I should be with the ratings overall. Admittedly it’s especially bad now with the baseball playoffs and both college and pro football going on; the cupboard could be quite bare in July.

I’m also giving in and listing overnight ratings just for events in broadcast daytime that don’t show up on either site, certainly not right away, just to serve as a placeholder and give a general sense of how those events did, but I’m graying out the numbers to indicate their uselessness. To get a sense of the scale here, at least for college football, Saturday Night Football got the same 2.3 overnight as the other ABC games.

Click here to learn more about how to read the charts.

Weekend Broadcast Primetime and Top Cable Sports Ratings

All information from TVByTheNumbers and TV Media Insights.

Vwr (mil) HH 18-49 Time Net
NFL: Chiefs @ 49ers
or Jets @ Chargers

19.654

11.5

6.9

10/5 4:25 PM

CBS
Sunday Night Football:
Bengals @ Patriots

19.386

11.7

7.4

10/5 8:30 PM

NBC
CFB: Nebraska @ Michigan State

4.563

2.8

1.4

10/4 8:00 PM

ABC
ALDS: Angels @ Royals, Game 3

4.35

2.6

1.2

10/5 7:30 PM

TBS
CFB: Texas A&M @ Mississippi State

4.101

 

0.6

10/4 12:00 PM

ESPN
CFB: LSU @ Auburn

3.744

 

1.3

10/4 7:00 PM

ESPN
NASCAR: Hollywood Casino 400

3.601

2.3

0.7

10/5 2:00 PM

ESPN
ALDS: Orioles @ Tigers, Game 3

3.297

2.0

0.7

10/5 3:30 PM

TBS
NLDS: Giants @ Nationals, Game 2

3.16

 

0.8

10/4 5:30 PM

FS1
CFB: Arizona State @ USC

2.294

1.4

0.7

10/4 7:30 PM

FOX
CFB: Utah @ UCLA

2.027

 

0.8

10/4 10:30 PM

ESPN
NLDS: Cardinals @ Dodgers, Game 2

1.785

1.0

0.6

10/4 9:30 PM

MLBN
NASCAR Nationwide Series

1.539

 

0.4

10/4 3:30 PM

ESPN
CFB: Wisconsin @ Northwestern

1.257

 

0.3

10/4 3:30 PM

ESPN2
CFB: Miami (FL) @ Georgia Tech

1.133

 

0.4

10/4 7:30 PM

ESPN2
Liga MX

1.062

0.6

0.5

10/4 6:00 PM

Univ.
English Premier League:
Chelsea v. Arsenal

0.874

0.5

10/5 9:15 AM

NBCSN
UFC Fight Night

0.799

0.4

10/5 12:00 AM

FS1
UFC Fight Night (overflow)

0.413

0.3

0.2

10/4 10:00 PM

FX

Weekend Broadcast Daytime Overnight Sports Ratings

These numbers only incorporate data from the 56 metered markets and should not be used to infer precise final ratings. Events will generally finish in the same order, but not always. All information from Sports Media Watch.

HH Time Net
NFL: Regional coverage (or 4 PM ET)

12.8

10/5 1:00 PM

FOX
NFL: Regional coverage

11.6

10/5 1:00 PM

CBS
CFB: Alabama @ Mississippi

3.9

10/4 3:30 PM

CBS
CFB: Stanford @ Notre Dame

2.7

10/4 3:30 PM

NBC
CFB: Baylor @ Texas or
Wake Forest @ Florida State

2.3

10/4 3:30 PM

ABC
CFB: Ohio State @ Maryland

2.3

10/4 12:00 PM

ABC
CFB: Oklahoma @ TCU

1.4

10/4 3:30 PM

FOX
English Premier League:
Aston Villa v. Manchester City

0.7

10/4 12:30 PM

NBC

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 5

NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that even with the bit about the early flexes, this was written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 5
  • In effect during Weeks 5-17
  • Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks starting Week 11, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 in 2006 and 2011, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5. As I understand it, during the Week 5-10 period the NFL and NBC declare their intention to flex out a game two weeks in advance, at which point CBS and Fox pick one game each to protect.
  • In the past, three teams could appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC. I don’t know how the expansion of the Thursday Night schedule affects this, if it does. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; ten teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Packers, Bears, 49ers, Steelers, and Saints don’t have games in the main flex period, and all have games in the early flex period. I don’t know if both of the games scheduled for 12/20 count towards the total, or only the one in primetime. NBC appearances for all teams: GB 3 (2 semi-flexible), SEA 3 (1 flexible), IND 2 (1 flexible), DEN 3 (1 semi-flexible, 1 flexible), CHI 2 (1 semi-flexible), SF 3 (1 semi-flexible), PIT 2 (1 semi-flexible), CAR 1, NO 2 (1 semi-flexible), DAL 3 (2 flexible), CIN 1, NE 3 (2 flexible), NYG 2 (1 flexible), PHI 3 (1 flexible, 1 ?), BAL 1 (semi-flexible), KC 1 (flexible), SD 1 (flexible), ARI 1 (flexible). All primetime appearances for all teams: GB 5 (2 semi-flexible), SEA 4 (1 flexible), IND 5 (1 flexible), DEN 5 (1 semi-flexible, 1 flexible), CHI 5 (1 semi-flexible), SF 5 (1 semi-flexible, 1 ?), PIT 5 (1 semi-flexible), CAR 3, NO 5 (1 semi-flexible), DAL 5 (2 flexible), CIN 3, NE 5 (2 flexible), NYG 5 (1 flexible), PHI 4 (1 flexible), BAL 3 (1 semi-flexible), KC 3 (1 flexible), SD 4 (1 flexible, 1 ?), ARI 3 (1 flexible), DET 1, NYJ 3, WAS 4 (1 ?), STL 2, HOU 2, TEN 2, MIA 2, ATL 2, all other teams 1.

Briefly, here are the current early-season games and their prospects for being flexed out:

  • Week 7: San Francisco (3-2) @ Denver (3-1). The 49ers started out 1-2, but now that they’ve climbed back above .500 I don’t think you waste an early flex on this. No chance of being flexed out.
  • Week 8: Green Bay (3-2) @ New Orleans (2-3). A bit chintzy, but it is still two name teams and it’s still Aaron Rodgers v. Drew Brees.
  • Week 9: Baltimore (3-2) @ Pittsburgh (3-2). Again, not a great game, but still a marquee rivalry between two teams above .500.
  • Week 10: Chicago (2-3) @ Green Bay (3-2). Basically the same situation as Packers-Saints, except Chicago isn’t quite as big a name (but still a big market) and Jay Cutler isn’t Drew Brees. The Bears would need to look pretty bad for this game to lose its spot, but if the NFL still has one or both early flexes left they could easily burn it on this.

I held off on making this post because I wanted to find out how the new “cross-flex” system affected how protections worked, if at all; the purpose of protections is to protect the afternoon packages, so it seems to defeat the point of protections if you can protect a game from NBC only to lose it to CBS or Fox. On the other hand, that would seem to defeat the point of the cross-flex system, whose main purpose was billed as beefing up the late spot of the doubleheader, which would seem to be difficult to do if you can only move games you could move to SNF anyway (although the tentative game bias would seem to produce at least a few candidates). And then there’s the fact that some games in the flex period have already been picked for cross-flexing, meaning they could be protected by networks that wouldn’t normally have them… Regardless, for now I’m going to assume protections work as they have in seasons past, and as such here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 16):

  • Tentative game: New England @ Indianapolis
  • Prospects: 3-2 v. 3-2, about the same as the remaining early-flex games. Obviously this rivalry isn’t as hot as in the Brady-Manning days, but it’s still Brady v. Luck.
  • Likely protections: Bengals-Saints if anything (CBS) and 49ers-Giants or Eagles-Packers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: With no unbeaten teams after just five weeks, you see a lot of mediocrity in the standings, as the early-flex games and this first tentative show. Besides Fox’s unprotected game, Lions-Cardinals is a possibility, and Texans-Browns is a dark horse.

Week 12 (November 23):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 4-1 v. 3-2. The NFC East is hardly last year’s tire fire, and for once the Cowboys don’t look quite so mediocre as in years past.
  • Likely protections: Dolphins-Broncos, Bengals-Texans, or nothing (CBS) and Cardinals-Seahawks or Lions-Patriots (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Basically comes down to whatever games CBS and Fox don’t protect.

Week 13 (November 30):

  • Tentative game: Denver @ Kansas City
  • Prospects: 3-1 v. 2-3. Possibly the most vulnerable of the tentatives, yet still has a pretty good chance to keep its spot on its own merits.
  • Likely protections: Chargers-Ravens or Patriots-Packers (CBS) and Saints-Steelers if anything (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving weekend, paucity of good games, especially with Eagles-Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Browns-Bills is a dark horse, but CBS’ unprotected game is really the only good option. Doubtful that’d overcome the chance to have Peyton Manning on.

Week 14 (December 7):

  • Tentative game: New England @ San Diego
  • Prospects: 3-2 v. 4-1. Very strong to keep its spot.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Bengals, Bills-Broncos, or nothing (CBS) and Seahawks-Eagles (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Besides CBS’s unprotected game, Ravens-Dolphins and Colts-Browns are dark horses. None of those are particularly appealing.

Week 15 (December 14):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ Philadelphia
  • Prospects: 4-1 v. 4-1 and an NFC East showdown. If form holds, this game has a mortal lock on this spot.
  • Likely protections: Chargers-Broncos (CBS) and 49ers-Seahawks (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Packers-Bills and Texans-Colts, both of which would require an absolute collapse by one or both teams and that still might not be enough (as many Cowboys games past have shown). Bengals-Browns and Dolphins-Patriots are dark horses.

Week 16 (December 21):

  • Tentative game: Seattle @ Arizona
  • Prospects: The NFL sometimes seems to put throwaway games in Week 16 and this may have seemed like one of them, but at 3-1 v. 3-1 it’s nearly on par with the previous week.
  • Likely protections: Colts-Cowboys (CBS) and Lions-Bears but more likely nothing (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Ravens-Texans is the only real option at the moment, and it hardly is one. Browns-Panthers is a dark horse.

Week 17 (December 28):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

Will Three Million Comments in Favor of Net Neutrality Sway the FCC – and Should They?

Over the past few months, the FCC has seen a level of public participation unprecedented in the agency’s history. Largely spurred on by John Oliver (not to give short shrift to numerous consumer groups mobilizing the masses), over three million comments were filed in the FCC’s net neutrality proceeding, many by people who couldn’t name more than one or two commissioners and who only knew the name of chairman Tom Wheeler because Oliver told them. The overwhelming majority of those three million comments begged the FCC to preserve net neutrality and an open Internet and not to adopt “paid prioritization” rules that would undermine the concept of net neutrality, with the only comments in favor of paid prioritization being cable companies and people paid off by cable companies.

With so many people weighing in on the issue, surely the FCC will bow to the will of the people and pass real net neutrality, right? According to Seeta Peña Gangadharan writing in Slate, and drawing on his experiences with the 2002 and 2006 ownership reviews when the FCC ignored the input of hundreds of thousands of comments from ordinary Americans, the answer is a resounding no. Depending on how cynical you are, that may not be surprising; what may surprise you is what Gangadharan says are the reasons why, something that he says “points to a much larger tension between federal agencies and the public—and one that we must address if we want our agencies to help restore trust in government and strengthen their civic purpose.”

According to the FCC commissioners and staffers Gangadharan spoke to, the public has a misconception that the comment process is like a vote, when it’s actually “more like a court proceeding” where “systematic, reliable evidence, not emotional expressions” win the day. They considered the many comments filed in the ownership proceeding by people who probably never filed comments to the FCC any other time as “emotional and superficial content”, “prone to error” and “lack[ing] truthfulness”. As one staffer put it, not “usually very deep or analytical or, you know, substantiated by evidence, documentary or otherwise. They’re usually expressions of opinion.” Another went so far as to say some of the comments they received were downright “hilarious” because “you know you’re reading something, and you know it’s not true. And you’re guessing, you know, the person is hallucinating.” As a result, many comments don’t even make it very far in the commission’s bureaucracy, because in the eyes of staffers, “they [don't] need to”. As Gangadharan puts it, to sway the commission you need to “become a lawyer, economist, or researcher and meet the commission’s expectations for what reasoned input really means.”

If the majority of comments from ordinary citizens to the FCC fail to “meet the commission’s expectations for what reasoned input really means”, perhaps that’s because they aren’t “reasoned input” by anyone’s expectations, and if they consider those comments “emotional and superficial content”, perhaps that’s because they are. By and large, when “ordinary citizens” file comments to the FCC they not only tend not to be all that well-argued, resorting to “emotional and superficial” appeals, they often are riddled with spelling, grammar, capitalization, and punctuation errors. The Sunlight Foundation characterized “at least” 60% of the 800,000 net neutrality comments the FCC had received at that time as “form letters written by organized campaigns”, in other words, letters written by people who were able to cogently and coherently articulate their position but which got repeated over and over by numerous people. The fact that a bunch of people were able to submit the same comment over and over and each get counted suggests the commissioners and staffers are not far off in thinking most people, even those that should know better, see the comment process as a “vote”; if the comment process is supposed to be a battle of rational arguments, those numerous repeated comments shouldn’t even count towards the total, but should simply be listed as signatures on a single petition. Otherwise, it’s what people who disagree with their position can dismiss as astroturfing. What does that leave? Here’s a not-quite-random assortment of some of the comments from the remaining 40% – some of which may out to be form letters! – that were posted to the FCC’s site right before the Internet Slowdown protests resulted in a surge of form letters, all of them reprinted in their entirety:

Please do not change the current laws regarding net neutrality. Even under the current laws, ISPs in America are oligopolies in the best cases and monopolies in many rural and suburban areas, and abolishing net neutrality would give them an even stronger stranglehold on the market. The Internet in its current form is a precious resource and should not be sold out for the sake of the bottom line of a hand-full of companies who just so happen to be some of the richest lobbyists in Washington. At the very least, please honestly consider the repercussions of abolishing net neutrality before acting to protect the interests of Big Cable. -Daniel McArtor

Net neutrality is the First Amendment of the Internet, the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) treat all data equally. As an Internet user, net neutrality is vitally important to me. The FCC should use its Title II authority to protect it. -abc

I believe in the free accessibility of the internet for all people. The internet is a right that should not be filtered or throttled by corporations or governments. Please defend the free internet by maintaining net neutrality. -Stephen Winter

Based on my knowledge internet was invented by research organizations and then given to public to bring the whole world closer. Verizon or comcast do not have any right over it just because they own the hardware which facilitates the internet. These companies precisely understand the importance of the internet, how everyone is dependent on it, and it is just a scam to make more money on one of the basic commodities in this country. I oppose the plea by comcast and verzion primarily for the following reason: It is not wrong for these companies to provide faster service to companies who would want to pay more, but my concern is how it will affect other companies/people who cannot afford the speed. I work with entrepreneurs who work on internet start ups, who hardly have any money or they are usually on a strict budget, but our projects sometimes compete with bigger companies. My biggest concern is as it is start ups face uneven field to start off. Now, on top of that if internet provider companies start providing faster service for the rich companies then the field gets even more uneven making it harder for small companies, startups, small businesses to compete with their rich counterparts. Last but not the least, I have a comment on Comcast. Comcast which is the largest internet provider. -Gansh Soms

Stop the corporate greed, you stupid twats.  The public actually cares about this issue.  Baaaaaaaaaa. -Common Sense

The FCC should amend its rules to ensure continued net neutrality.  The pending proposal does not do that.  Instead, it allows an already heavily concentrated industry to gain even greater control over public access to information by selling rights to a “fast lane.”  It also puts businesses, particularly new entrants in the market and those with less capital, at a clear competitive disadvantage.  This will harm the economy in the long term.  The proposed rule is poor public policy and should be rejected, and replaced by a rule that treats these corporate behemoths like the common carriers they are, as a practical matter.  Thank you for considering my comments. -Darrell Murray

When people speak of the greatest inventions of mankind we speak of things like soap (combating bacteria and disease), steel (providing strength to structures our mind can conceive of), and the printing press (allowing the common man the chance to learn to read). Prior to the printing press and the Gutenberg Bible, literacy was solely for the church and the very few. The internet, in its current iteration is available for all and  the greatest tool to spread information. Please do not move forward with the Net Neutrality act. There is NOTHING to be gained by the people who use the internet if this is to go forward. Thank you, Charles Schoenherr

KEEP NET NEUTRALITY! KEEP NET NEUTRALITY! KEEP NET NEUTRALITY! I don’t want the cable companies bending me over my work table and @*!X#$ me up my nether regions. The internet doesn’t need a no move lane and laser speed limousine lane. Fire Wheeler. Putting him in charge of the FCC is like hiring a convicted child molester to baby sit your kids! -Edward Mosle

Please protect net neutrality. The Internet and its use by regular consumers has advanced far enough that internet/broadband service providers should be treated as any other telecommunications service provider and regulated as such. Competition is good, and consumers should have multiple choices, but for a provider to interfere with the speed of data reaching the consumer or charging unfair prices by creating “fast lanes” is not fair to the consumers. -Anahit

I favor HS Internet but I favor more competition among vendors for the consumer & retain the Tier pay plans for users alone & to regulate ISPs as Utility IE Information Utility alone can do much to expand Internet. Pricing should be competitive for consumers esp small business & home users. CUT regulations that deter this from marketplace. CUT any FCC bureaucracy that can impact Net neutrality alone BUT expand FCC enforcement div alone. & one should be able to change users for HS Internet like one can with mobile phones. Hate the mobile phone contracts anyway, consider wireless phone carriers as a Utility like Pacific Bell was years ago. -Stephen Russell

Former Democratic Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, who were on the commission for the 2002 and 2006 proceedings, have “argued that labeling the input of all ordinary citizens as worthless and emotional is misguided”, that the stories they tell “spoke to the failings of a consolidated media marketplace.” Going off their comments, Gangadharan calls on the FCC to “concede that personal experience can be substantive, too”, just as agencies do with consumer complaints, and set a precedent for all agencies to “treat[] rulemaking as a genuine democratic process, that value[s] peoples’ voice, history, and context”. But court proceedings, and other big decision-making processes, are not supposed to make decisions based on anecdotal evidence, but on actual data – especially since most ordinary people don’t have any concrete anecdotes that would argue against net neutrality. If there is a “much larger tension between federal agencies and the public”, it’s even deeper than Gangadharan indicates, because if people are simply sending in their personal anecdotes it’s because that’s what sways ordinary people like themselves, so if there is anything wrong with government agencies it’s in expecting human nature to be anything different from what it actually is. In any case, most of the above comments aren’t even anecdotes; at best they’re just parroting the talking points from the numerous places covering the issue. The commission shouldn’t make their decision based simply on how many comments come in on one side of the issue if the vast majority of them are irrelevant crap that add nothing to the debate (especially those coming from the Internet trolls Oliver specifically called on to comment), and if they do, it will be more out of consideration of the PR consequences, a recognition of the sheer number of people aware of the issue and their reaction to the FCC’s proposals, than anything else.

I filed my own comments to the FCC earlier this month on the current ownership review, which does not seem to have attracted the same intense interest as the ones Gangadharan references (perhaps because the commission is proposing more tightening of regulations than loosening this time around), and read through the rounds of comments that had already been submitted as part of my research for it, and as such I feel I have a good sense of the sorts of comments the commission is actually looking for. Assuming even those comments that do “meet the commission’s expectations for reasoned input” make any impact on the commissioners, as opposed to their minds already being made up for whatever reason on most issues (many of the comments on Gangadharan’s piece point to money being more of a motivating factor than quality of comments in the Commission’s decisions – see Wheeler’s cable-industry-lobbyist background), I think ordinary Americans can get their comments noticed by the FCC if they have a solid understanding of the issue and the arguments being thrown around about them, and at least a basic college-level understanding of rhetoric and argument. I invite you to look at my comments on the ownership review; they’re not perfect (I cite Wikipedia multiple times, including at least one thing that may be just plain wrong, and may be wrong about other things), but at 20 pages and with copious citations, as well as actually confronting the stakeholders’ arguments on the issues I address, I’d like to think it at least provides a framework for ordinary citizens to at least try to compete on a level playing field with the big corporations.

Ultimately, I think the real problem is that the things the FCC does just don’t get much attention from the media, except when it comes to super-obvious things like net neutrality, even though the things the FCC does affect every American. Of course, the big media companies probably don’t want anti-consolidation citizens weighing in on proposals that affect them, but even blogs don’t cover the FCC on a regular basis, focusing on a few big issues like net neutrality or the big cable company mergers with obvious impact on the consumer, without any appreciation of the larger context surrounding the debate on those issues (or even a nuanced discussion beyond the talking points), and mostly when the FCC’s proposals are things they hate (the sports blackout rule notwithstanding). There’s been little coverage of the incentive auction or the general issue of spectrum management (and those that are aware of it tend to support giving more spectrum to wireless companies, unless they’re specifically interested in the state of broadcasting, even though preserving and supporting broadcast TV is vital to preserving net neutrality in the long term), or of the ownership review, or of issues surrounding retransmission consent and a la carte, or of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee’s Republican leadership soliciting input on a proposed update of communications legislation. These are things that could have as much or more impact on the lives of Americans as the issues that get all the attention, but they tend to go under the radar. Having an FCC that works for the people may be more important than with any other agency, because preserving net neutrality and a diversity of voices in general has the overall effect of strengthening our democracy and ensuring the rest of the government works for the people as well, and thus keeping an eye on the FCC is more important than with any other agency as well.

What is the Sports Blackout Rule the FCC Just Repealed?

On Tuesday the FCC voted unanimously to repeal its 40-year-old sports blackout rule, a move that means a lot less than its coverage in the media has made it look like. This is not, in itself, the rule that prohibits the broadcasting of NFL games that don’t sell out or the rule that frustrates MLB Extra Innings subscribers so much, but it is related to the former. As this Awful Announcing piece explains, the blackout rule essentially provides a backstop for the NFL’s blackout rule by prohibiting cable providers from airing games blacked out on local broadcast stations. (It technically applies to all leagues, but the NFL is both the only league with a blackout policy this would apply to and the only league that hasn’t seen virtually all its games migrate to cable anyway in recent decades.) It was never particularly a matter of good policy, with the FCC putting a foot on the scales of private enterprise, but its weird specificity (which betrays its vintage from an almost unthinkably different time not only in the NFL, but in the cable business and the television business more generally) dulls its effect enough that it’s hard to see its repeal changing anything, at least in the near term, given the NFL’s existing contracts.

Despite this, AA itself has inflated the rule’s importance in subsequent reporting on the debates on the issue, and the NFL warned that repealing the rule could force the league to abandon broadcast television and move to cable. It’s hard to see how a rule that keeps games from airing on broadcast, one the NFL could easily repeal its end of tomorrow and obviate the effect of the repeal of the FCC rule, is protecting the presence of games on broadcast, but the FCC’s response, noting the league’s current contracts run through 2022, is worrisome to me, because it doesn’t cover what happens after that, given cable’s unfair advantages, or the fact that the Big Four networks have made clear they would abandon over-the-air television themselves if they could.

Could cable providers air games the NFL has blacked out on local stations? Maybe, but if such isn’t covered by the NFL’s exclusive deal with DirecTV for Sunday Ticket the NFL could still police it, with a potential last resort of holding NFL Network and NFL RedZone over their heads. It may or may not affect DirecTV’s own ability to show blacked-out games, assuming DirecTV blacks out games on Sunday Ticket that are blacked out on the local station, but if so it’s likely that’s guaranteed in their contract as well and the league could continue to police it. The repeal of the FCC’s rule might change the economic incentives for the league going forward, but again the prospect of blacked-out games airing on cable undermining their presence on broadcast is a problem of the league’s own making through their imposition of the blackout rule in the first place. If the NFL declares in their next TV contract – and I’m assuming the impossible, that by the end of this decade the content landscape is exactly as it is today – that the repeal of the FCC rule is forcing them to abandon their commitment to broadcast TV and move their games to cable, it would call into question their motivations for making that commitment to begin with. Protecting gate attendance, no matter what way you slice it, seems to have little to do with protecting the league’s presence on broadcast television, and anyone who thinks there’s a serious prospect of the league eventually abandoning broadcast should be paying more attention to the broken economics of the television industry and the prospect of broadcast being permanently if not terminally crippled by the upcoming incentive auctions. All told, the repeal of the FCC’s blackout rule is a purely symbolic gesture not worth the ink spilled on it, but it does give some indication that the FCC is willing to stand on the side of the consumer and good policy – at least, if they can also stand on the side of the cable companies and against broadcasting at the same time.

An important announcement on plans for Da Blog and my life going forward

Except for around Christmas (including the annual blog-day post), this is the last post I will make on Da Blog from the Seattle area for the foreseeable future.

In my last blog-day post, I mentioned the possibility that my work on Da Blog would be “directly supported and nurtured”; now I can say a bit more about what that was referring to. Over the Labor Day weekend, I will be moving down to live with my dad in Los Angeles. We’ve been talking for several years about this; the plan is for Dad to support me and allow me to work on Da Blog without being distracted by school, a job, the people I live with, or the school I’ve lived across the street from for the past three years, with Dad as my “boss” to keep me focused and try to actually get an audience going and increase exposure to my writings. (While this is going on, the “Da Blog in LA” category will only be used for LA-specific posts I couldn’t have made if I weren’t there, which is to say it probably won’t be used at all.) At one point we talked about us living together for about two years; I don’t know if that’s still the plan, but I have the site’s hosting locked down through June of 2016, and if we still don’t have anything going by then – if we’re at the same place we’ve always been throughout what will then be nine and a half years of Da Blog – it may be time to give up on actually making anything of Da Blog.

Some things have been settled already, but most of the details will be fleshed out on the drive down. I may have another post after the weekend is over detailing any substantial changes coming to Da Blog in the near term as a direct result of this move.

In the meantime, I’ve updated the lineal titles in preparation for football season. It seems I never actually updated the lineal titles before last year, despite what I said in last year’s post. Both of last year’s new college football lineal titles got merged with others; the BCS title was merged with 2006 Boise State pretty quickly, while Ohio State’s claim was merged with 2009 Boise State at the Rose Bowl. This year starts with three lineal titles; Alabama went undefeated until the Miracle at Jordan-Hare and Auburn went on to the BCS Title Game, so 2006 Boise State starts the year with national champion Florida State. You can see what happened to the NFL lineal title on the history page accessible from the category page.

MLB is fixing its blackout policy!!! (not really)

Everyone loves to hate MLB’s “outdated” blackout policies. Of course the NBA and NHL have similar policies and presumably don’t allow you to watch in-market teams online, and they don’t come in for nearly as much hatred, so perhaps the hate towards MLB’s blackout policies is more part of a larger rush to rag on MLB rather than cause of what’s ailing it. Or perhaps it’s because NBA and NHL teams’ blackout areas don’t reach out to a ridiculous extent with no regard to the actual availability of the teams, with the result that areas further away from any MLB teams end up blacked out of more teams than they were if they were closer, with the end result that if you live in Charlotte, the fifth-largest market without an MLB team, you’re blacked out of the Nationals, Orioles, Braves, and Reds, with some markets blacked out of even more teams!

But fret not, because MLB Advanced Media may be about to fix those notorious blackout rules – with a catch:

In an interview this week, Bob Bowman said he is optimistic that a deal could be reached soon with various cable operators, channels and ballclubs. The catch is that even with an MLB.TV subscription, which starts at $20 a month, fans will also need a cable or satellite TV subscription to view hometown teams at home.

That doesn’t seem like it would actually fix any of the problems people have with the blackout rules. People who don’t have a cable subscription still won’t be able to watch any of their local teams’ games; okay, fine, baseball doesn’t want to fix that problem because they’re raking in too much money from RSNs, and baseball games on RSNs are the biggest obstacle to cord-cutting at the moment because of the tremendous popularity of local baseball teams. But presumably, in order to authenticate your cable or satellite subscription you’d need to actually get the RSN your team is carried on, and if you get the RSN your team is carried on you wouldn’t need MLB.tv or MLB Extra Innings to watch it in the first place!

It seems like this change is oriented more at solving another, very real but mostly unrelated, problem: how slow RSNs have been at embracing streaming. The Yankees shut down their ridiculously-expensive streaming service after five underwhelming seasons this year, leaving no US teams with any in-market streaming capabilities. The main issue appears to be that RSNs want to offer streaming at no additional cost while teams want to be reimbursed on top of what they’re already being paid to be on the RSN to begin with, at a time when virtually every national rights deal includes streaming rights, and the distinction between carriage on linear television and streaming services is an artifact of times past. MLBAM’s solution appears to be using the existing MLB.tv infrastructure to create in-market streaming for all teams through brute force, with an eye towards seeing how much extra revenue they can collect that way while still forcing customers to authenticate (though don’t expect it to be very successful when you’re charging more than what YES was charging – $20 a month v. $69.95 a year). If that’s what you want to do, that’s great, but don’t bill it as “fixing the blackout rules” when it’s not.