For the past few years Major League Baseball has been very vocal about trying to expand its fan base. When Commissioner Rob Manfred took over in 2015 he even said that “embracing technology and youth outreach” were one of his top-five priorities. The regular baseball season is a long grind, and casual fans (along with newer, younger fans) probably aren’t going to tune in for 162 games. However, postseason baseball can be exciting and fun, even when your favorite team isn’t even playing. The postseason should be the best time to expand the fan base and bring in new viewers, yet MLB is wasting that opportunity by restricting TV coverage.
The only postseason series that will air on one of the national broadcast channels (FOX) this year is the World Series. For whatever reason, all of the American League games leading up to that will air on TBS, while the National League games air on Fox Sports 1. MLB Network is also broadcasting games. This makes absolutely zero sense to me, especially considering the fact that approximately one out of every five households have opted to cut their cable service. You would think that they would at least offer some sort of postseason package through MLB.tv that could side step cable. Yet the only thing that appears to be available is “companion coverage” of the AL Championship series, including some angles that differ from what TBS is showing.
I have not done away with my cable service entirely, but I am subscribed to one of the most basic plans, along with MLB Extra Innings which does not include any postseason games. Irritatingly enough, stations such as ESPN, FS1, and MLBN are all considered part of the “sports package.” That means that the only station that I get that is airing any of the postseason games is TBS. So, I can only watch the AL games, and the World Series. This in and of itself seems odd, since TBS is typically included in basic cable packages, yet the other stations are not.
Sure, if I desperately wanted to watch one of the NL games I could go to a bar to watch, or even find a friend who gets one of those other channels. However, these aren’t realistic choices for younger people who are just getting into the sport. Another thing that is working against young people are the late start times. The vast majority of the playoff games are scheduled to start at 8 pm EST. This might be a great time for folks out West, but many kids are not able to stay up until 11 pm, especially on a school night.
It appears that we will be stuck with the current system for awhile too, as MLB signed agreements with FOX, TBS, and ESPN through 2021. MLB’s number one priority is obviously money, but the postseason broadcast schedule doesn’t really cater to new fans or old fans. Why not broadcast half of the playoff games on regular FOX, and half on TBS? Since FS1 is part of FOX, they would still be the ones getting the money. It is a good thing that my favorite team happens to play in the American League, or I might be increasing my cable package solely to view all of the postseason games.
Am I the only one frustrated by the fact that is increasingly difficult to watch playoff games? Let me know in the comments below.