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How does mlb.tv know how to screw you?
April 6, 2007 4:14 PM   Subscribe

How does mlb.com determine which market you're in, so it can apply the black out restrictions for mlb.tv?

This comment makes me think it's the zip code your credit card goes to, but this question makes it sound like it's ip-based. So how is it done?

I'm a life-long Cards fan, but since I live within their market, I can't watch the majority of their games on mlb.tv. If it's a matter of credit card zip codes, I have a sympathetic uncle in Portland, OR who would gladly let me use his credit card. If it's ip-based, however, I'm not sure if I'm techie enough to create a successful work-around. Any ideas, guesses, and/or suggestions?
posted by c:\awesome to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
They're looking at your IP.

Anonymouse is in Europe; it might work. (But don't be too surprised if the video breaks up a lot.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:22 PM on April 6, 2007


Hmm, that 2nd question I linked mentioned that using a proxy makes mlb.tv all but unwatchable. Maybe I should just stick to the radio version. Damn the MLB and it's insistence on shutting out fans with money to blow.
posted by c:\awesome at 4:27 PM on April 6, 2007


The seriously use IP addresses? They have to be using something else in conjunction - no way IP by itself is accurate enough. That, or they must get a good number of customers placed in the wrong markets.
I mean, Sourceforge itself manages to almost always give me a mirror halfway across the country.
posted by niles at 4:45 PM on April 6, 2007


The more I think about it, the harder it becomes for me to believe that they only use IP. Imagine if a NY Mets fan from San Francisco purchased mlb.tv and then one day found himself on a business trip to the big apple... would he not be able to watch mlb.tv in NYC, since his ip would now be resolving to that location?

It's very confusing.
posted by c:\awesome at 4:54 PM on April 6, 2007


Perhaps the sympathetic uncle would also set up a private proxy for you to watch games on too? Or you could find someone is also affected by blackouts in their region and do a swap.
posted by saraswati at 4:55 PM on April 6, 2007


There's a lot of money motivating accurate geo IP lookup. For instance, local ad sales. It's not the old days where they would look up your DNS in whois, and use that address (which put all AOL users in Virginia.)

This one gets me to about 20 miles.

MLB doesn't have to be perfect either. They can deal with "misses" on boundaries by having you call in and provide serious proof of address (like a bill with your name).
posted by smackfu at 4:56 PM on April 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well think about it. What's the purpose of the blackout? To make sure people within the market can only watch the game on local affiliates. If you're physically in the market they don't want you to watch that game on anything but local television, even if you're just visiting.
posted by saraswati at 4:59 PM on April 6, 2007


They can deal with "misses" on boundaries by having you call in and provide serious proof of address (like a bill with your name).

So maybe a call from c:\awesome's uncle is in order.
posted by niles at 5:00 PM on April 6, 2007


Just to add something, if the blackout system is the same as it was 10 years ago when I was a sportswriter, the definition of the local market is fixed not on the physical location of the ballpark or stadium, but on (sometimes rather arbitrary) rules concerning where the contractual definition of the market's center is, and that contract is drawn up between MLB/NFL/NBA and the local affiliate.

For example, the legal definition of the center of the Los Angeles market was fixed as the physical location of an L.A. post office located well to the south of the city's geographic center, in order to specifically include Long Beach and Orange County as part of the "greater Los Angeles" market. This post office is actually near San Pedro, and was technically still inside Los Angeles, because there's a finger of Los Angeles that sticks out to incorporate the commercial seaport of L.A. Look at a map to see what I mean.

So, even if you finagled a way to get a different IP address that resolves to, say, 50 miles away from the ballpark, you might still be caught within the boundary of the market definition. Watch out for that.
posted by frogan at 5:54 PM on April 6, 2007


Notice that the incentive is for MLBTV to block when in doubt. If they allow someone who is inside the contractual area to access MLBTV they can be sued by the broadcaster. If they block someone outside the contractual area, that customer may get angry but probably won't (and can't) sue.

So they'd rather err on the side of blocking people.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:01 PM on April 6, 2007


I'm pretty sure they are including your credit card zip, also. Hard to say what rule has precedence, but it could be that they automatically block certain credit card zip codes, and then they block non-local zipcodes which show local IP's.

I can't confirm this, but I think I've heard from friends that they remained blocked from their local team, even when they traveled.
posted by Cardinal Fang! at 6:02 PM on April 6, 2007


I haven't purchased this year, but in past years I've had to use an out-of-market credit card and route my connection through an out-of-market network proxy.

So they use both.
posted by event at 6:23 PM on April 6, 2007


Since they have a 5-day free trial in April you could just give it a try and find out for sure.
posted by derMax at 1:53 AM on April 7, 2007


I just looked into the blackout policy for MLS and they explicitly say their blackout is IP based:

In order to enforce regional blackouts, MLSnet.com verifies location by checking the user's IP address. If we cannot verify that a user is within the viewing area for a particular event, we will enforce the blackout. Note that users who access the internet via proxy server may be blacked out even if they live within the viewing area.

Not sure if MLB has a similar policy, but it seems pretty crappy to me.
posted by Otis at 10:31 AM on April 7, 2007


FWIW, when I had an MLB.tv subscription about 2 years ago, I was able to watch Phillies games while logging on from computers in the Philadelphia broadcast market. That leads me to believe that it's not based on IP addresses alone.
posted by LilBucner at 11:53 AM on April 8, 2007


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