MLB eyes national streaming platform as cable alternative for in-market games
North America’s Major League Baseball is seeking to launch a new nationwide streaming service that would allow fans without cable TV subscriptions to watch their hometown teams in their local markets, it has been reported.
The OTT platform would offer the same game broadcast carried by local TV networks and could be rolled out as early as 2023, according to the New York Post.
The service is likely to be priced between $10 and $20, depending on a user’s home market, well below the monthly cost of most cable TV packages, which are typically over $100.
MLB.TV, the league’s out-of-market streaming platform that does not allow fans to stream games within their home television territory, would continue to operate alongside this new service.
The Post reports that basketball’s NBA and ice hockey’s NHL are considering partnering with MLB on the digital offering.
However, the league’s plan could be complicated by Sinclair Broadcast Group, the largest television station owner in the US, and its desire to launch a streaming service of its own.
In 2019, Sinclair paid $9.6 billion for the 21 regional sports networks (RSNs) that had previously been owned by national network Fox – giving it rights to 14 MLB teams, 16 NBA franchises, and 12 from the NHL.
In June, it was reported by the Post that Sinclair is raising funds for a new wide-ranging sports streaming service and is working with the LionTree investment bank to generate $250 million for its launch.
That report said that Sinclair will charge fans $23 per month to stream games from 42 franchises in the 21 local US markets where the corporation holds rights and that Sinclair is aiming to launch the platform at the start of the 2022 MLB campaign.
MLB, however, does not believe that Sinclair has the capability to launch an OTT platform and claims it is better placed to provide this service.
Speaking at last week’s CAA World Congress of Sports conference, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said: “The accurate statement would be that Sinclair does not have enough digital rights from enough clubs in order to have a viable direct-to-consumer product.
“We believe those digital rights are crucial. We want to own and control the platform on which they’re delivered, we may have partners in that process.”
At the same conference, NBA commissioner Adam Silver stated that the cable bundle is “broken” and revealed that the league is working with Sinclair to “work through the issues”.
Since the 1990s, baseball fans in the US have only been able to watch their local sports teams play at home via cable TV as the teams have sold the broadcast rights to RSNs.
Manfred could reportedly be willing to offer cable TV networks a share of the streaming revenue to compensate for potential subscriber losses.