By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Baseball may be sick, but the prognosis isn't terminal. Average per-game attendance was 31,000 last year, not far below pre-recession days. Better still, polling shows that Latinos, the country's fastest-growing demographic, are also the game's biggest fans.
Posnanski notes that teams have agreed to share Internet revenues, meaning there may come a day when the Pirates and the Royals won't have reserved seats at the kids' table come playoff time.
Yet it's more likely that consumers and the cable industry will force baseball to confront its decaying foundation. And if they're successful, the cost to true fans will rocket.
Companies like Time Warner Cable have begun to use their own market power to fight back, offering cheaper, mostly sports-free deals for those tired of paying for games they don't watch. Time Warner's TV Essentials package comes in at less than $50, says spokeswoman Maureen Huff, and is "designed for people who are just kind of feeling the economy." Most telling: It doesn't include ESPN or other sports channels.
Cablevision is the biggest threat looming off baseball's stern. Earlier this month, the New York provider filed a federal anti-trust suit against Viacom, claiming that to carry Comedy Central and VH1, it was forced to buy channels like Logo and Palladia as well. According to the suit, Cablevision could always reject these demands. But Viacom wanted a $1 billion penalty in exchange for any exercise in free will.
If the court rules against Viacom, cable and satellite may finally be able to offer packages to suit any price or taste. Baseball's welfare payments from non-fans will corrode. And with an audience in decline, remaining subscribers will be forced to spend that much more to compensate. Suddenly, that $200 bill could look like a going-out-of-business sale.
It is time for a customer revolt. The cable companies are perfectly able to create custom packages for each customer's interests. The problem is Congress is in the pocket of companies like Viacom, and won't change the laws to require cable to offer custom packages. Maybe only anti trust lawsuits can end this racket. Under the current model Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Florida will never, ever again be in World Series. And it looks like no one cares anyway. I have a 20 year old son, and he and none of his friends care one iota about baseball. It's all NBA and NFL only.
I think your commentary on mlb economics was a wonderful, eye-opener for both sports fans, and non fans. You explain the crazy rise in prices to the viewer, but also point out potential exit strategies for non fans. I read your article in The Riverfront Times, in St Louis, Mo. I wonder why you had to tarnish your article by comparing baseball purists, to the Republic Party. The President won handily, but by only 4%. The Senate & House are under different parties, much change is in the air. I wonder why one political party was brought into a sports article? And in a negative manner? Thanks for the informative article.