Will MLB.TV and other online media hurt the “home team”?

Americans are a mobile society. We move around for work, family, and sometimes just to get a fresh start. This used to have an effect on what baseball team you could watch on TV. Based on MLB’s territory rules, you were pretty much guaranteed to see only one team on television depending on where you live. Obviously if you’re in New York, Los Angeles, or the San Francisco Bay area, this wasn’t necessarily the case. However, in recent years, the internet has done wonders to make teams’ territory practically moot.

MLB.TV is a brilliant example of how we can thumb our nose on who our local team happens to be and support whatever team in MLB we want. A subscription allows you watch any out-of-market games that you want for around $120 a year. That allows you stream games live on your phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop. You can pause live games and typically have a choice of which broadcast (home or away) you want. It also allows you to listen to radio broadcasts. It’s a brilliant creation and if I ever move from the metro-Atlanta area, I’ll never be too far from my beloved Braves.

There is a downside to this brilliant technology. It all but eliminates the possibility that local teams will convert new residents into being fans of the local club. For example, a friend of mine just moved to Dallas and is a diehard Braves fan. He naturally already subscribed to MLB.TV and was glowing over the fact that despite being in the heart of Rangers country, his Braves are only a click away. While the state of Texas just gained a resident, the didn’t gain a Rangers fan. I’m sure he’d stop by the Ballpark at Arlington to catch the 2-time reigning AL champs, but he won’t be swapping his Braves cap for a Rangers one anytime soon.

Living in Braves Country prevents me from having to plunk down for a subscription service, but yesterday–undoubtedly as a marketing tool–MLB.TV broadcasted a spring training game between the Braves and Nationals for free. While it wasn’t my first experience watching sports online, the appeal of MLB.TV was undeniable. The quality was superb, they didn’t broadcast ads, and allowed in-game viewing of the box score and play-by-play stats.

It might hurt people converting and rooting for their new home team, but it keeps you far more connected to your original home team than simply seeing highlights on Sportscenter or reading the box score in the newspaper.

MLB.TV and other online subscription services may hurt cities convert their new residents, but it keeps us connected to home and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Let’s play ball!

Lastly, just want to see a small word on Chipper Jones, who after 18 seasons in the big leagues, and what’s been a Hall of Fame career, announced that he is retiring following the 2012 season. Jones is a once in a generation player, who will go down as one of the greatest switch hitters of all time and certainly one of the top third basemen of all time. He was an offensive juggernaut for the Braves and did it all cleanly in the middle of the Steroids Era. He’s a career .300 hitter, with over 450 home runs, and nearly 2,400 hits. Chipper was the 1999 MVP, finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 1995, and was a much heralded number one pick by the Braves in 1990. We can’t forget that in 2008 Jones won the NL batting title, hitting .364 and whopping .470 OBP.  He’s restructured his contract multiple times to allow the Braves to spend money on other players and has become an ambassador for the game. While he’s in the twilight of his playing career, Chipper’s impact on the game will continue for years to come.

Thanks for the memories Chipper. Now let’s win it all in 2012 and send you out the way you came in: a World Series champion.

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