Here Comes The Waterfall: 15 MLB Teams To Lift Streaming Blackout For Fox Broadcasts

from the half-way dept

And away we go. Techdirt (myself specifically) has been talking for some time about the impending expansion of major sports streaming options as the cord-cutting trend has continued. It only makes sense: leagues and marketers will go where the audience is. The most recent trend started slowly with the FCC voting to end its blackout rule. That decision was important for streaming, because one of the dumbest ideas that migrated over from broadcast and cable television was the idea that local blackouts of broadcasts and streams were in any way a good idea. Even as the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB all have incrementally increased streaming options, those efforts have continued to be hampered by local blackout restrictions.

Well, Major League Baseball just took a giant step over the blackout line and is now effectively straddling it, announcing that local streaming will be available in fifteen markets in the 2016 season.

There is no specific timetable for a potential announcement of a deal between FOX and MLB. The two sides hope to complete the agreement around the end of this season, which would give the league and RSNs a full offseason to market the availability of the new local streams before Opening Day 2016. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, working with the league's president of business and media, Bob Bowman, has made in-market baseball streaming a key league priority, including personally participating in several negotiating sessions.
Per the above, this specific deal is going to be done with MLB teams that have broadcasting deals with Fox. But don't think for a single moment that that's where it ends. Even if MLB can't get similar deals in place for the other half of teams in the league, which would fully free up the fantastic MLB.TV product for local streaming, any modicum of success that Fox has with this program will be immediately adopted by the other broadcasters. They really don't have a choice. Cord-cutting isn't going away and it's been professional and college sports that have long kept subscribers tethered. The trickle of streaming options in sports has been turning into more of a deluge, and the cable industry should be expecting some tough times ahead in the next, oh, say three to five years. Because if Manfred has this on his priority list for MLB, please believe that the commissioners in the other leagues have it on theirs as well.

And when sports streaming really gets going, it's the end of cable as we currently know it.


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  • icon
    Sheogorath (profile), 19 Aug 2015 @ 12:04am

    MLB is bad people

    Given MLB's partnership with Autism $peaks, they have a new seventh innings song:
    Take me out to the ball game
    Take me out with the crowd
    We help 501s harm Autistics
    We don't care if that makes us seem dicks
    Let me root, root, root for eugenics
    If you don't abort, it's a shame
    For when Autism Speaks strikes, you're out
    At the old ball game

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Another AC, 19 Aug 2015 @ 4:44am

    So mlb.TV will get cheaper?

    Mlb.TV + unblock.us = No blackouts ever. I guess I can save on a VPN subscription fee soon... But as a Canadian I still need it for, well, every other streaming service. So I guess not much changes for me :(

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      PRMan, 19 Aug 2015 @ 9:58am

      Re: So mlb.TV will get cheaper?

      Wasn't AdFreeTime invented in Canada? I would think it's cheaper and faster than a VPN, since it uses your regular bandwidth.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    deep64blue (profile), 19 Aug 2015 @ 4:53am

    MLB.tv - er no

    I think you misunderstand, MLb.tv will still be blacked out but authenticated Fox users will be able to watch Fox online as I understand it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ltlw0lf (profile), 19 Aug 2015 @ 7:31am

      Re: MLB.tv - er no

      I think you misunderstand, MLb.tv will still be blacked out but authenticated Fox users will be able to watch Fox online as I understand it.

      Sadly, you are right. MLB.tv will get the stream in exchange for giving FoxSportsGo the authentication of the users, so you have to have an active account (have to be a cable subscriber with access to the Fox network) in order to use this. So it helps exactly zero cable cutters or cable subscribers without access to the Fox network (if only everyone could be so lucky,) and probably not many others since they already have access to the video from cable.

      The only hope for us cable cutters is a good decision in Garber v. Office of the Commissioner, but so far that has just been lawyers trying to score big on the litigation lottery and has not resulted in any changes (at least on the NHL side where they settled out of court and no changes were made.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dave (profile), 19 Aug 2015 @ 5:36am

    And when exactly does sports streaming REALLY get going?

    All five major pro sports leagues in the U.S. (and that one in the UK) have TV rights deals in place with major networks through the end of this decade.

    Four of the five major college conferences have TV rights deals in place well into the next decade, and the fifth has its own cable network and is expected to remain entrenched with the big cable networks.

    Many teams that have deals in place with regional sports networks have them in place into the 2030s, and this deal doesn't necessarily mean those MLB teams that have deals with Fox will be available locally to MLB.tv subscribers, even for a nominal extra fee. Fox still wants to keep those baseball fans tied to the cable bundle to help pay for Fox News, Fox Sports 1 & 2, FX, FXX, Fox Business, and whatever other Fox channels people pay for without ever watching.

    So tell me again when sports streaming REALLY gets going, because I'm not seeing it anytime soon.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Sheogorath (profile), 19 Aug 2015 @ 11:07am

      Re: And when exactly does sports streaming REALLY get going?

      All five major pro sports leagues in the U.S. (and that one in the UK) [...]
      Which one would that be? The F.A., the Rugby Football League, the Rugby Football Union, the England and Wales Cricket Board, or the Elite Ice Hockey League? You're really going to have to clarify.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    AC (profile), 19 Aug 2015 @ 8:45am

    See here for more

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/mlb-fox-reportedly-agree-on-partial-in-market-streaming/

    In effect, this is barely sticking their toes in the water.

    If getting a true no-strings-attached blackout-free streaming option (even at a higher cost) is the goal here, this probably hurts more then it helps. Sure, now there's a framework to get more teams on board, but with all the hoops a subscriber has to jump through to watch one of these games, this is not really a step in the right direction.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gerald Robinson (profile), 19 Aug 2015 @ 2:38pm

    Reality

    The reality is that while Content may be king Convenience is Queen! MLB has declining attendance at games and because of that declining viewers because the cost of going to a stadium game is out of the reach of most folks (often upwards of $200 for a family of 4). This means that young folks are less interested in all the major league spors and if major league sports wants to get interest they need to be convenient as the content is less compelling. IMHO soccer will drive MLB to where it is like hockey a second tier sport. MLB in particular needs more fans and can't get them through physical attendance so it must be more convenient to watch.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Joe Friday, 27 Mar 2016 @ 8:02am

    MLB still blacking out

    Despite assurances to end blackouts, MLB continues to black out games. Why have they reneged on their promise?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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