MLB scores a tech patent

Major League Baseball would be prevented from streaming games if not for a system that enables it to block video to subscribers located in "blacked out" areas.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
2 min read

Of all the sports leagues, Major League Baseball has the reputation of being the most technologically savvy. On Thursday, MLB proved it by winning its first tech patent.

Bob Bowman says baseball couldn't stream games without subscriber-locating system. Major League Baseball Advanced Media

The league's digital unit, Major League Baseball Advanced Media(MLBAM), announced on Thursday that it was granted patent No. 7,486,943 for a system that helps determine a subscriber's geographical location. MLBAM oversees MLB.tv, the online video distribution service that streams live and on-demand games, and is widely considered to be the most successful subscription business on the Internet.

Pinpointing where a subscriber is located when he or she logs on to watch a game is necessary to avoid violating "blackout rules." TV stations all over the nation purchase exclusive broadcast rights from the clubs that cover highly specific geographical areas. MLBAM's system enables the service to locate where subscribers are logging on and block them from receiving streaming video of a game if they are located in a region where a TV broadcaster has the exclusive rights to show the game.

Sure, the blackout rules frustrate plenty of sports fans, but without baseball's subscriber-locating system, MLBAM would be prevented from streaming games over the Web, said the company's CEO, Bob Bowman.

Baseball finds MLB.tv users via a system that combines several different pieces of tracking software. Quova, based in Mountain View, Calif., contributes with software that helps determine a person's network address. The software makes a series of best guesses and assigns a confidence factor to the estimate. MLBAM will then use other sources, such as payment data, to close in on a person's local.