Why won't sports leagues take fans' mobile money?

Why do sports leagues pretend that we're likely to drop our iPads and run to the stadium?

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MLB At Bat app on Android tablet

What’s changed in major-league sports since the 1970s? The popularity of handlebar moustaches and chewing tobacco, and the advance of steroid science, to name a few things. But the biggest thing that comes to mind is the way fans can and do want to watch games. A huge part of that is the rise of smartphones, iPads, and wireless connections, but it often seems like sports leagues are doing their best to ignore that.

The best of the best, actually, is MLB At Bat, which arrived last week for the 2012 season on iOS and Android. Pay $15, and you can listen to live radio streams of any Major League Baseball game, see live statistics, and watch live-streaming video of one game each day, as selected by the league. Buy a full MLB.tv subscription, starting at $109 for the season or $19.99 per month, and you can watch spring training sessions and live video of any MLB game in the country. Except, that is, games that are occurring in the closest city with a Major League team, which is probably the team you follow, and the team you want to watch.

That’s due to a blackout rule, and nearly every major league sport has its version. Major League Baseball’s blackout rule is actually the most lenient, if also the most arcane. The National Football League is clear and often cruel, while the National Hockey League is, like the MLB, deferential to its broadcast partners. The National Baskeball Association blacks out games on its own NBA TV channel#NBAblackoutpolicy), though most cable subscribers can watch the games somewhere in their ample listings.

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