When many baseball fans hear the word “streaming,” they think about how it currently works in Major League Baseball. There’s MLB.tv, as well as newcomers to the digital delivery space, Apple TV + and Peacock. Be it game viewing fees or seemingly ubiquitous power outages, the current game streaming model is not generally popular with baseball fans.
At a recent owners’ meeting, Commissioner Rob Manfred hinted that MLB was moving to increase streaming, but in a different way. The idea would be to allow fans to choose the games they want to stream and buy the rights to watch those games as they see fit, thus avoiding power outages. Article year The Athletic For Evan Drellich, Manfred had to say:
“We think we have baseball fans who don’t feel they have the opportunity to do so. We have a strong sense that a company we call MLB Media should step into the digital space to give fans more and more flexibility. to watch games.
“This is to give fans who may be outside the traditional cable set a good chance to see our games.”
Why are there power outages at all? Regional Sports Networks (RSNs), such as SNYs, buy rights to broadcast games in their local markets and do not want to compete with the streaming service. This applies not only to the streaming and RSN of the same game in a specific market, but also to the streaming or forwarding of another game to the team’s local market (unless the subscriber has purchased MLB.tv or an additional MLB feed).
The problem of access to games goes even further. MLB defines “local markets” for its teams, and sometimes these markets are not very local at all, but to protect RSNs, games cannot be streamed to them under current television contracts. Here are some examples from this article:
There is another group of fans that MLB calls “undeserving”: those who do not have access to TV shows at all. This is a group for which the games are not only blacked out on MLB.tv because they are technically “on the market”, but the team’s RSN is not carried by a local provider, such as cable TV.
Iowa is not the only market floating in the event of a power outage. Six teams have also been blacked out in Las Vegas. No California team – Angels, Athletics, Dodgers, Giants or Padres – can be viewed on MLB.tv and Diamondbacks is also inaccessible. Hawaii is in a similar boat, not all California teams are available on MLB.tv.
That is also the problem. There are unserved fans (most fans in major metropolitan areas don’t experience this problem) who want to watch baseball but can’t. While the game’s popularity has stagnated at best, lack of access to the product for potential customers is not a winning strategy. Manfred and the owners are trying to find possible solutions.
The MLB-led comprehensive streaming strategy cannot be implemented until at least most of the current RSN contracts expire. But Manfred is confident it can work. Cited Article:
“Unlike other entities, we have access to all digital rights, and let’s not forget that we have the technology to stream 2430 games since 2000.”
The way we consume informative content is evolving rapidly and will continue to evolve. The way we consume baseball content is also changing. Maybe RSNs and streaming are learning to live together. Maybe baseball in RSNs is going away and fans can choose the teams they want to stream every year and pay accordingly.
If baseball can expand its reach and fans can consume the content they want, that’s a good result. Let’s look at how MLB gets there. Turning to one subset of fans while alienating another should not be an option. MLB doesn’t have the best results with customer relationships.
We are in the digital age. MLB has the opportunity to make streaming more for the game and increase its popularity. We hope they understand this correctly.
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