from the you-need-the-fans dept
If you’re not a sports fan, or not an American, you may not be aware that there is currently an owner’s lockout occurring in Major League Baseball. We’ve talked a bit in the past about some of the bullshit MLB is pulling with all of this, namely its decision to strip out all references to current players from its website. But in those discussions we never really got into what this lockout is or why it’s occurring. Let me give you a quick primer.
For starters, this is not a player strike. Ownership and players are currently negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The owners locked the players out of MLB facilities in December, claiming it did so as a defensive measure. This simply is not true. There was nothing in the pervious CBA that required a lockout once that CBA expired. MLB could have gone on with its normal schedule this year while it continued to negotiate a new CBA. Instead, MLB has imposed artificial deadline after artificial deadline and then blamed the players for not giving in to its bad-faith negotiations. MLB recently announced that the start of the season would be delayed and the games not played would simply be lost, again blaming the players for this. That isn’t true. MLB is choosing unilaterally to cancel MLB games.
You may or may not care about any of this. Where this crosses over into Techdirt territory, however, is what is going to happen when an inevitable deal is reached and games resume. Why? Well, if the last prolonged work stoppage in MLB is any indication, teams will likely resume play with diminished attendance in the stands and viewership numbers down for teams across the board. Baseball fans will be very, very angry about all of this and the reprecussions of the lockout have the potential to be felt for years.
So what should MLB prepare to do to claw back as many of those fans as possible once games resume? Many of the things that it should have been doing to grow the game all along, except that this time they might have not choice:
- Stop waging war on the internet: MLB long ago embraced the internet better than many other sports leagues. MLB Advanced Media was/is great, as is its MLB.TV product. Unfortunately, MLB has also gone after fans and enterprising individuals in the past that use MLB content in analysis, breakdowns, game reviews, etc., especially if any of those folks are looking to make any money for their work. That’s dumb. Those folks who help fans enjoy the game are good for the game. Who gives a shit if they make some money off your product if you get more fans, and money, as a result? Free up the product so that the world can promote it for you for free.
- Enough with the blackout rule bullshit: to be fair to MLB, the league has started to move in the direction of lifting blackout restrictions, especially for streaming services. However, it hasn’t done so nearly quickly or uniformly enough. Restrictions are still in place and it plainly hurts viewership, especially in the aforementioned MLB.TV product. Again, I cannot stress enough how great MLB.TV is, which makes it all the more frustrating that you cannot use it in your home team’s market. More people look to more streaming versus traditional television for entertainment more of the time these days. When the cloud of the lockout is lifted, MLB is going to need to make it as easy as possible for disgruntled fans to re-engage. Streaming without blackouts is a must.
- Stop going to war with journalists just because you don’t like their reporting: the league looks petty enough, given the reality of the lockout. To double down on the petty by nakedly trying to silence reporting on the lockout, or on the league in general, is an awful look sure to turn off fans. Stop it! Bad league! Look what you did!
- Stop going to war with your own fans: granted, some of these stories of MLB acting like complete assbags to its own fanbase are old, but it’s not like there has been some subsequent change of tone from the league on this stuff either. And there should be! MLB should open this all up, allow fans to create their own content using MLB content, share it throughout the world via the internet, and continue driving interest in the game.
Noticing a theme? MLB appears to really enjoy battling with everyone and everything, especially on the internet. This stands in stark contrast to what the other professional leagues are doing. Hell, MLB doesn’t seem to understand that my Twitter timeline is overflowing with amazing NFL and NBA clips from games, all by fans out in the wild and all of them driving my and others’ interests in these games. That’s what gets you to turn on the television or buy a ticket these days.
And MLB is going to need to do something to claw back fans when this all ends. Because the public in general knows this is an ownership lockout and are most certainly not blaming the players for this.