After throwing cold water on regional sports network owner Sinclair Broadcast Group’s plans for a direct-to-consumer service that would show games, Major League Baseball is reportedly in talks about launching a streaming service that would let fans watch their local teams without subscribing to cable.
The MLB over-the-top service would cost between $10 and $20 a month, depending on the market, and could be up to bat as early as the 2023 season, according to the New York Post.
Local games would also continue to be on cable, but the new service would be designed to appeal to younger fans who have already cut the cord.
Sinclair bought the Fox regional sports networks for $9 billion and rebranded them as Bally Sports. The deal left Sinclair with a lot of debt and shrinking subscriber numbers. The company has been talking about raising $250 million to build the new venture.
Speaking last week at a conference, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred disputed Sinclair’s contention that it has digital rights to launch a direct-to-consumer service.
"We've been very clear with them from the beginning that we see both those sets of rights as extraordinarily valuable to baseball, and we're not just going to throw them in to help Sinclair out,” Manfred said.
“We believe those digital rights are crucial, “ the commissioner said. “And we want to own and control the platform on which they’re delivered, we may have partners in that process.”
Sinclair had no comment on Manfred’s comments.
The NBA and the NHL are considering working with MLB on the streaming service, the Post report said.
MLB’s streaming service would pay individual teams based on viewership in their local markets, the report said. Meanwhile, without the streaming rights, the cable TV rights to games could drop in price, relieving some pressure on the RSNs, which are already being dropped by some distributors because of their big league price tags.
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Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.