MLB Advanced Media Calls Slingbox Out

George Kliavkoff, executive vice president of business for MLB Advanced Media, said that television viewers who used Slingboxes to consume media away from their home town were effectively stealing content from cable operators when they rebroadcast it for personal consumption over the Internet.

At the heart of the issue is that Sling Media, Orb Networks and similar companies cut out cable and satellite operators who pay great sums for transmission rights in their areas, according to Kliavkoff. Baseball sells transmission rights to specific geographical locations. So, a cable subscriber in San Francisco who watches a Giants baseball game from his or her laptop during a visit to Chicago is stealing from the Chicago cable operator who paid to transmit MLB games in that city.

This is a rather interesting situation for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that, if a substantial amount of viewers begin using their Slingbox to watch sports games, MLB Advance Media could stand to lose a substantial amount of subscribers for its MLB.TV service.

Currently, baseball fans can pay either $14.95 a month or $49.95 a season for the company’s MLB.TV service, which essentially allows users to view baseball games as they happen in streaming Internet video, or to download past games directly to their computer. Unfortunately, MLB.TV also follows a variety of different blackout restrictions, including limiting viewership in any team’s home telecast market and inhibiting users from downloading more than five minutes of any game played within less than about 24 hours. MLB.TV also obeys national live blackout rules, meaning that some games will be totally unavailable for viewing in the whole United States, as well as Japan, South Korea, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Slingbox users, on the other hand, pay about $200 (or roughly four times the cost of one season on MLB.TV), but don’t have to pay attention to any potential blackouts because they’re consuming the same content that appears on their regular television sets.