June 6, 2006 3:47 PM PDT

Major League Baseball takes swing at Sling Media

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LOS ANGELES--Major League Baseball wants Sling Media to stop slinging around the league's content.

Sling enables TV viewers to access their set-top or TiVo boxes from anywhere in the world via any device that connects to the Web. MLB says that's fine, but if viewers want to watch on multiple devices, they have to pay multiple times.

The situation is part of a larger fight brewing between broadcasters and the companies that relay video streams to portable devices. Proof of the growing conflict came Tuesday during a panel discussion at the Digital Media Summit here, when George Kliavkoff, executive vice president of business for MLB Advanced Media, debated the issue with Rich Buchanan, Sling Media's vice president of marketing.

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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.

But we're not talking Napster here, argues Buchanan. The cable subscriber in such a scenario already purchased the content from a programmer back home and under the law can watch it wherever he or she chooses, he said.

"Your interpretation of the (cable and satellite user agreement) is wrong," Kliavkoff told Buchanan as the two spoke before some 200 conference attendees. Sling Media users "are violating the scope of their user agreements."

Since the late '90s, when Napster and other file-sharing sites helped millions illegally download copyright music, other industries are closely guarding their content. In many instances, technology is forcing changes on businesses before they have time to devise strategies to deal with them.

Baseball hasn't sued anyone, and nobody is sure at this point which side would prevail in a legal fight. But the issue could be settled in court; some industry insiders have predicted that cable and satellite operators will fight to protect their turf.

"I don't doubt that at some point the operators will cut off their noses to spite their faces," Art Brodsky, spokesman for Public Knowledge, an Internet-user watchdog group, said referring to operators and programmers.

Brodsky says technology that allows consumers to watch TV wherever they want is good for cable operators because it instills loyalty. Their home programmer or operator can advertise to subscribers regardless of their geographical location. He says baseball's stance is also likely to alienate fans.

"What difference does it make to MLB whether I'm watching the game at home or someplace else?" he asked. "We're talking about content that's been paid for. Nobody has stolen anything."

Buchanan said that privately held Sling Media has participated in talks with all the major professional leagues, including MLB Baseball, which he said is the most protective of its content. He said San Mateo, Calif.-based Sling is not out to rip anyone off and cited two of the company's backers as a testament to its good intentions. In January, cable giant Liberty Media and satellite operator EchoStar Communications were part of a $46.6 million round of funding for the company.

But if it comes down to a legal fight, Buchanan indicated that his company won't flinch.

"The bottom line," he said, "is I'd hate to be a lawyer arguing that I want consumers to pay twice for content."

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14 comments

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Fvck MLB!
<eom>
Posted by anarchyreigns (299 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Spoken like a true 12 year old...
Congradulations you made yourself look like a moron.
Posted by mrpeabody3119 (101 comments )
Link Flag
MLB has bigger problems
maybe they should worry about all the 'roid freaks playing the game and not about people who actually want to watch what they aleady paid for
Posted by 2lazy2work.com (23 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MLB is getting out of hand! ...
MLB is getting way out of hand. They charge $15/month to
subscribe to their baseball package to watch the game(s), or $4
a game, $79 a season to watch the condensed game w/o
commercials, an extra charge for watching classic games & even
that is limited to 24 hours, another charge to watch the
"extended highlights", the teams site's are covered in
advertisements, the fields are covered in banners, the plays are
called the "Aflac play of the game", baseball tickets are
overpriced, a beer is $6.50 & a hotdog is $3.50, the baseball
fields are named after corporations like -Minute Maid Park, and
there are "blackouts" in your local area for watching the local
team if it's aired at the present time on the local cable company.
</rant>
Posted by adamncincy (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
stupid, but inconsequential
So if we boil it all down we have:

Consumers who feel they want to use the content THEY'VE PAID FOR in any manner they wish using technology available to do what is most convenient for them, as long as they're using it for their personal use, not re-selling or giving it away.
vs
Corporations who feel that charging consumers more than once for the same content is a justifiable business model.

So how long before the corporations decide that since dad pays the cable bill, only his eyes are allowed to watch the game and everyone else in the house should pay more if they want to watch? And what about bars showing the game? Shouldn't every customer have to pay? And stores? If the display models happen to show the game, shouldn't every customer shopping in the store be charged?
And how long before we have to pay an extra fee to see the Aflac play of the game, which Aflac now owns the rights to?
Where does it end?
It's just overgrown boys playing a game. Who cares? It should be free and all the money wasted on sports should be put towards the war effort and subjugating foreign governments to our world order view. Any leftovers should be spent controlling and spying on US citizens. Come on congress, get on this!
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Come on, CNet
"You're interpretation of the (cable and satellite user agreement) is
wrong," Kliavkoff told Buchanan as the two spoke before 200
conference attendees.
-----

'You are interpretation'? Come on, editors, pay attention.
Posted by funkytown (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Whoa -- fair use in the crosshairs again
We are once again bringing the fair use doctrine into play here. Is it fair use, once I've paid for the rights to watch a show in one place, to "place-shift" that program to another location? Once I've paid for the show, I can watch it whenever (TiVo) or wherever (Sling - VCR, etc) I choose. I've paid for that use, and I'm not violating MLB's "rebroadcast or retransmission" rule. I'm sure they're going to argue that Sling is "retransmitting" the broadcast, but that "retransmission" clause in their copyright rule refers to broadcast retransmissions. I really hope this comes down to a fair use discussion, because IMHO, this is clearly within the scope of fair use. And we could finally put the "time-shifting" and "place-shifting" arguments to bed.
Posted by schlice (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MLB ...
From where I stand, there isn't much value in the MLB, at least not in the area I'm in. The team here is constantly losing, and it is the teams from other cities that have something exciting to watch.

Short of that, if MLB starts pushing content distribution, people should just encourage their content providers to drop MLB content, until the MLB decides to play fair. Sort of a lock-out of the MLB.

The MLB has had lockouts and strikes between owners and players, this could end up boiling down to a lockout/strike between the MLB and viewers, only the MLB would be the losers as the viewers are the revenue source.
Posted by JDinKC (303 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How is this different than the PERFORM Act?
One play one pay, if you have any hope of keeping any fair use rights you need to contact your Congressman and Senators to vote against the PERFORM Act going through both judicial committees in the House and Senate right now.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c109:1:./temp/~c109pE1ZlX::" target="_newWindow">http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c109:1:./temp/~c109pE1ZlX::</a>
Posted by drfez (15 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MLB Blackouts
The blackouts are the reason MLB is fighting this. This service will allow people that have been blacked out to view the games by streaming from someplace that hasn't been blacked out.

I live in Northern CA and bought MLB TV, so most of the Giants home games are blacked out locally. I go on a business trip to Chicago. For anybody in Chicago the game is not blacked out (because it's not local), but I still can't watch the game because my account is registered in Northern CA which falls under the blackout rules.
Posted by DeathMagnet (249 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MLB TV Blackouts
MLB signed a 6 year deal with Fox Sports to allow Fox to blackout EVERY game EVERY Saturday that starts before 7 PM EDT, regardless of whether or not Fox is going to broadcast that game. If we want to end these blackouts, forget contacting MLB, here's where who we have to contact:

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin
445 12th St. SW
Washington, DC 20554
Email: KJMWEB@fcc.gov
Fax: 866-418-0232

Congressman Fred Upton
Chairman, Subcommittee on Telecommuncations and the Internet
2183 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Fax: 202-225-4986

MLB and Fox committed collusion when they signed this contract, as MLB also solicts baseball fans to subscribe to their MLB-TV service by advertising "watch live EVERY out of market game". The sooner we flood these gentlemen with our complaints, the sooner we will get this blackout policy revoked.
Posted by VAsunshine1947 (2 comments )
Link Flag
Good defense arguement
Suppose Joe buys cable service in region A. In region A, the baseball games for the A-Team are blocked. Now joe travels to region B on vacation. If he watches a B-team game (normally blocked in region B) by accessing his device over the internet, then the baseball people are complaining he's stealing the royalties from region B's cable company. But wait a minute! Can he watch an A-team game? No, because his box doesn't get those (blocked). His service is exactly what he's paying for, reguarless of where he is.

He's not stealing anything.
Posted by Seaspray0 (9714 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Blood from a turnip...
As a non-baseball fan citizen in a city where the taxpayers are carrying the lion's share of the cost of the half-billion dollar stadium our lawmakers donated to MLB a few years back, may I politely suggest that the MLB greedmeisters consume fecal matter and cease biological functioning?

Thank you.
Posted by bobqat (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
pipe providers are actually winners here
i don't think it's the MSO's who really have a beef with remote access to home TV: in my own personal case, i pay Comcast $15/mo. more than i did before i started using Orb to stream TV to my work PC and my mobile phone - i just don't have time to watch that much TV at HOME, but when i can watch it ANYWHERE, i watch more

i actually pay the MLB to get GameDay audio from them DIRECTLY over the Net - because i live in California, that's the only way to hear Joe Castiglione of Boston's WEEI shout, "WAY back! WAY back!" when Big Papi pops one out of the pahk.

but since i already pay Comcast for ESPN2 - i get that feed from my home to the Web via the Orb software on my home PC; i'm not going to pay a premium price AGAIN to get that content; MLB's already made its money off me, as has Comcast

robert bartels of sony's locationfreeTV group gave a great, quick summation of why remote streaming of home TV is fair use... and he oughta know, being part of a company that also OWNS A STUDIO

i think the REAL threat to the MSOs isn't place-shifting technology (which clearly makes your cable feed more valuable to you) but the rapidly approaching future when content is PRIMARILY accessed over an IP feed

so the MLB is throwing a bit of a red-herring in here, since they're leading the way on this disintermediation of Cable

from a consumer standpoint, MLB's direct billing relationship with its fans is alllllll good by me! like i said, i pay them directly already for Web access to radio content i'd get for free if i lived in boston; when the ONLY way i can get their content is via their own IP feed, i'll pay them directly

and this rapid shifting of the mode of content distribution highlights the weakness of place-shifting-only solutions overly rooted in the current way TV comes into the home over a cable pipe; Orb's a good bit more future-proofed in the TV arena, since your Orb app on your own home PC already gives you the same instant enjoyment everywhere (PC, mobile phone, PDA; Windows, Real, 3gp) of INTERNET TV, live or recorded, as it does of your HOME TV, live or recorded
Posted by ianmccarthy (5 comments )
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