Major League Baseball owners had plenty on their plates — the economy, the sale of the Chicago Cubs, the launch of MLB Network, to name three — without having to confront perhaps the toughest issue to solve: what to do about local TV territories.
They decided to put that one off again, at least until January.
To understand the problem facing MLB, one need look no farther than our own market, where the designated home teams for television purposes are the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals. But because the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, which carries the Orioles and Nationals (those teams, in fact, co-own MASN), and Time Warner Cable have been unable to reach an agreement, the vast majority of cable customers in North Carolina — even those who pay more to get MLB's Extra Innings package — can't see those games. The satellite providers, Dish Network and DirecTV, both offer MASN.
Two arbitrators and a high-ranking FCC official have ruled that Time Warner Cable discriminated against MASN, and TWC is now appealing to the full Federal Communications Commission of five members. About the only cloud on MASN's horizon has been the possibility that MLB itself would get involved by going so far as to take a TV market or territory away from a club that did not broadcast within it, although MASN claims that it would not be subject to any such rule because of the agreement between the Orioles and Major League Baseball that allowed the Expos to move to Washington (and become the Nationals).
Nonetheless, Commissioner Bud Selig and MLB understandably don't like the idea that fans in outlying areas like the Triangle want to see baseball and can't get it — another way that MLB is bleeding younger fans.
The longer the owners keep tabling the issue of the television territories, however, the harder it is to imagine MLB providing a solution to fans in Raleigh-Durham.
We'll see what they have to say in January.