Major League Baseball calls foul on Slingbox

The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. has a story on MLB’s beef with Sling Media. Specifically, MLB Advanced Media, the group that oversees online distribution and does things like police YouTube for unauthorized MLB clips.

MLB is upset because they feel the Slingbox can circumvent the exclusive regional broadcast rights that the teams have with local TV and radio stations. The feeling is that if users can access content from another region it lowers the value of the contracts, and therefore the revenue for MLB.

Deja vu. This reminds me of back in 2004 when the MPAA and the NFL tried to block TiVoToGo. But then the FCC sided with TiVo. And, in light of that, the NFL decided to work with TiVo.

Last year, MLBAM tried to get Sling Media to pay licensing fees for any redistributed televised baseball games. Sling refused. I don’t blame them, just how would that work anyway? Would Sling have to pay a blanket license based on some perceived number of redistributed games? (Which the MLB would almost certainly inflate.) Input is input to the Slingbox, it doesn’t know baseball from the Antiques Roadshow.

It has already been decided that it is OK for me to TiVo a game while I’m away from home and then watch it when I get home. I can even TiVo a game before I leave, move it to my PC with TiVoToGo, and take it with me. Or burn it to DVD – on my Series2 DVD-RW box or my PC. But they’re claiming it is not OK for me to TiVo it at home and then watch it remotely via Slingbox, or watch it live via Slingbox. Not just not OK, but not legal.

“Of course, what they are doing is not legal,” he said. “We and other leagues have formed a group to study the issue and plan our response. A lot depends on ongoing discussions. Plus, there’s no guarantee that Slingbox will be around next year. It’s a startup.”

He being Michael Mellis, Senior VP and general counsel of MLBAM. I love the cheap shot at Sling Media too, classy.

Sounds to me like another established entity having a fit because the world is changing and they may have to change their business model. Just like the RIAA fought against MP3 players. Content providers fought the DVR – even calling ad-skippers criminals! The MPAA and NFL fought TiVoToGo. These established industries always seem to need to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the modern era. And they do everything they can to prevent it – DRM, lawsuits, the DMCA, half-baked technologies (like the original Divx, the disc not the codec), etc. Like it or not, the landscape is changing. Evolve or go extinct. Just hurry up and do one or the other so the rest of us can stop dealing with your hissy-fits.

Place-shifting, like time-shifting, is here to stay. Even if you knocked Sling Media out, which seems unlikely, there is Hava and Orb. Not to mention numerous other solutions – plug-ins for Media Center, hacks for MythTV, etc. And if you push the fans, they will resort to BitTorrent and P2P services to see it near-realtime if they can’t place-shift live.

The MLBAM just wants to double-dip. They want fans to pay for the content in the first place, subscribing to things like MLB Extra Innings, and then pay for the right to watch it when away from home. Even if it is Sling paying the license fee, it is really the consumer who pays in the end. Content owners are looking for ways to squeeze every penny out of consumers, charging for the same content repeatedly.

I picked this up from Gizmodo, who picked it up from Crave. Crave’s entry is worth checking out too.

About MegaZone

MegaZone is the Editor of Gizmo Lovers and the chief contributor. He's been online since 1989 and active in several generations of 'social media' - mailing lists, USENet groups, web forums, and since 2003, blogging.    MegaZone has a presence on several social platforms: Google+ / Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / LiveJournal / Web.    You can also follow Gizmo Lovers on other sites: Blog / Google+ / Facebook / Twitter.
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