Crack!

A federal court has made it official. We knew it was coming, but I don’t think any of us expected it to arrive this promptly. Now we know: as far as the Federal Government is concerned, your right to “life, liberty, and the purfuit of happineff” doesn’t include privacy.

I’m not going to write about it at length. It’s a rainy day, the turkeys are arguing about something incomprehensible outside my window, and I already said most of what I think last Tuesday. Why should I take out my frustration on you?

Bottom line: it’s still worth the time it takes to encrypt your electronic devices, but not by as much as it was last week. And don’t expect it to do you any good if any police officer anywhere takes an interest in you for any reason.

If you want any detail, go read Ars’ take on the news.

Then you can come back here for something slightly more cheerful.


Back? OK, good.

Baseball is back!

OK, OK, so far it’s just pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training, but we’ll take it. Position players will be showing up over the next week, and we can look forward to the usual slew of articles telling us which athletes are in “the best shape of their lives” and which ones let themselves go over the off-season.

More importantly, we’re less than two weeks away from the first Spring Training game–as previously noted, between the Phillies and the University of Tampa Spartans*–and that means it’s time to start warming up your MLB app for the season’s radio and TV broadcasts.

* I’ll skip the jokes about “picking on someone your own size,” mostly because I’m not sure who those jokes should be aimed at.

There’s some good news about MLB.TV, too. According to the renewal reminder I received a couple of days ago, the full-season package is $20 cheaper than last year. Even better, if you’re only interested in one team, you can get a “Single Team Package” for $25 less than the regular package.

A price drop? Customer-friendly features? Is anyone surprised that the changes are the result of a lawsuit?

To nobody’s surprise, the changes are part of a legal settlement. In essence, MLB agreed to lower the price of the “Premium” package and introduce the “Single Team Package” to avoid the risk of going to trial and potentially be forced to modify their obnoxious blackout policy.

The Single Team Package is only available for out of market fans–Giants fans in the Bay Area, for example, can’t buy the package to follow their team unless they can prove to MLB that they can’t get satellite or cable TV in their home. That’s “can’t get,” not “don’t want”.

As in years past, out-of-market teams’ games against in-market teams will be blacked out. So if our hypothetical Giants fan moves to LA, he can watch the Giants via either a Single Team or Premium package, except when the Giants are playing the Dodgers or Angels–even if the game is in SF. Interestingly, MLB.TV is offering a limited exception to the blackout rule*. For $10, our Giants fan can also watch the Giants’ broadcasts when they play the Dodgers and Angels. But he’s out of luck if he’s also an As fan. The exemption is only good for a single team. There are also a couple of significant limitations to which fans can purchase the add-on. It can’t be added to a Single Team Package, only the full Premium Package, and it can only be purchased if the fan gets the in-market teams’ games if he subscribes to Comcast cable or DIRECTV satellite service with a package that includes the local teams’ broadcasts. If our Giants fan has satellite service from DISH, or if Comcast drops the Dodgers’ games, he’s SOL.

* This is, IMNSHO, the most significant change MLB agreed to in the settlement. It’s the first, faint hint that MLB might be willing to think about considering the possibility of down-scaling the tight relationship with their BigMedia sponsors.

So, all-in-all, the good news is limited. But fans are certainly no worse off than they were last year, with faint hints of improvement ahead. In today’s climate of lowered expectations, that has to count as a victory.

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