Local digital streaming rights can now be sold by each MLB team. So what does that mean for … [+]
When Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred emerged from the most-recent owners meetings one of the questions centered on the league giving clubs the rights to sell their local streaming rights. Manfred said at the time that the owners had “approved unanimously a revised interactive media rights agreement.” In other words, going forward all 30 clubs are free to negotiate their own deals around streaming in their local and regional television markets. In doing so, never-corders or cord-cutters may finally be able to see live games without the need to have a cable or satellite television subscription.will be able to see local broadcasts beyond the Facebook and YouTube games that MLB has broadcast
Beyond that, many have grappled with how this change in the sports media landscape will look. Here’s what to expect.
It’s Not A Big Bang
Don’t expect all clubs to have streaming rights up for grabs at the same time. While there is nothing stopping clubs from re-negotiating rights under their current contracts with their regional sports network, the timing for most will come when those contracts expire. Given that most of the agreements are long term, clubs are likely to trickle out any deals that are reached over many years before all 30 clubs have over-the-top streaming rights deals that are on a non-authenticated basis.
Don’t Look For All Games To Be Streamed
Just because local streaming rights are now available for clubs to sell doesn’t mean that MLB is walking away from linear television. For the rights holder and the MLB clubs, maximizing these deals likely comes in the form of exclusivity. So, it’s conceivable that the regional sports network would get the majority of games, where a smaller percentage would be available on whatever streaming platform is partnered with.
RSNs Would Still Have Authenticated In-Market Streaming
For the games that the RSNs do get, fans that have cable or satellite television access to them would still be able to stream those games as part of the in-market streaming offerings the carrier or RSN provides. This models how access has been in recent years: those that can authenticate with their cable or satellite provider can see those games streamed while never-corders or cord-cutters are left in a lurch locally.
From Amazon To YouTube And More, Access Will Be In Multiple Locations
As the deals begin to trickle out, the first true expansion of live sports content on unauthenticated in-market streaming services will begin to take form. But where the content lands will depend on negotiations. It’s possible that Amazon, YouTube, or potentially Netflix could get into the mix. That means if you’re a fan of a particular team, you may need subscriptions to those services for local streaming broadcasts. All will be controlled via geolocation.
Global Streaming Rights Will Be Unaffected
If you’ve been paying attention over the last few years, you’ve noticed that MLB has streamed select games globally for free on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. Those won’t change based on this new paradigm at the local level for streaming rights.
Over Time, Deals Could Change
MLB has said repeatedly that broadcasts streamed via YouTube and Facebook are experiments to get a feel for how streaming plays out with fans, streamed games can be presented differently and in a more interactive way with fans. So too could local streaming rights deals. Clubs may jump in with both feet, or start slow. That could mean everything from the length of streaming agreements to the number of games.
The Bottom Line
For those that thought clubs having streaming rights at the local level would somehow remove television blackouts, sorry, they’re not related. According to league sources close the particulars of league broadcasting deals feel that fans in an area that is underserved because they live in an area that is in a team’s local territory but the RSN hasn’t done an affiliate deal, have options. DirecTV has agreements with RSNs for 27 of the 29 U.S. based clubs and a virtual multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) service like YouTube TV has deals with RSNs for 22 of the team’s games.
For those that have cut ties with television, the good news is that depending on when your local team sees their local regional sports network deal expire, they’ll have a good shot of being able to see games in the future via streaming services. Keep in mind that a team and an RSN can amend an existing broadcast deal anytime. There is a third consideration which is regional sports networks need to consider its rights and obligations with the cable and satellite affiliates they work with for distribution.
For those that thought these local streaming deals would be something akin to an internet version of over-the-air broadcasts for free, it’s possible. While some clubs may work with services such as Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu that would come with a subscription to a streaming service for the local games. stream local games, should free services like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. decided they could get rights and generate revenue through advertising or other ways for it to make sense, then fans wouldn’t need a subscription service.
Above all, fans will need to be patient. Some will may need to wait five or more years before local unauthenticated streaming media rights have a window to be negotiated. Your buddy who is fans of another team may get them before you do. And for fans in markets with multiple teams, it gets increasingly interesting. A fan that wishes to watch the Yankees and Mets streamed locally wcould get access at different times, and potentially through different streaming services.
The one thing that’s certain: MLB giving local streaming rights to the clubs to sell will be an absolute game changer. It will alter the baseball media landscape.