Congress To Address Blackout Policies and Bundling


Sep 8, 2011; Green Bay, WI, USA; NBC tv camera during the game between the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. The Packers defeated the Saints 42-34. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Momentous times, sports fans! Yesterday, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) introduced the Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013.  In short, the bill proposes to undo two serious complaints for many of the country’s cable TV subscribers: bundling and sports blackouts.

The bill predicates certain regulatory benefits on providers offering a la carte programming.  In other words, it tells providers that if they don’t offer a la carte programming, they can say goodbye to regulatory benefits such as retransmission consent, syndication exclusivity, and blackouts. Basically, the bill holds some regulatory axes over the necks of providers that will “encourage” a la carte programming.  You can almost hear the FCC now: “Nice Cable TV business you have there.  It’d be a shame if something were to happen to it.”

In short, baseball fans, if this bill gets support and becomes law, you will no longer need to pay for 37 soccer and curling channels for $49 bucks a month just to get the $5 per month MLB Network. Contact links for your Congressman and Senators can be found here and here.

Regular readers will recall my rant of a letter to the MLB earlier this season regarding their blackout policy. Also in the bill is a near-afterthought section that forces the removal of blackout restrictions on sporting events in markets where the event takes place at a stadium funded with public money.  For Marlins fans with MLB.TV subscriptions, that is welcome news indeed.