After years of build-up, it’s finally coming: a direct-to-consumer, in-market streaming app for baseball games. It’s a very specific one that is limited to certain markets, but it’s the first step in what is likely to be a very fundamental evolution of how baseball games (and other sports) are delivered to fans. The cable bundle is further eroded.
Here’s the announcement:
Sinclair CEO: Bally Sports DTC Service “Bally Sports+” will cost $19.99/month or $189.99/year.
Expected to launch with 5 MLB teams (Rays, Marlins, Royals, Brewers, & Tigers) in June. https://t.co/Cp9dwvBOV5
— The Streamable (@TheStreamable) May 4, 2022
Sinclair/Bally operate RSNs in half of MLB’s markets, so you can expect they are working hard to secure the rest of those in-market streaming rights for this platform. I guess this launch is … kind of a test?
To put what’s happening another way: for the fans of those teams in those markets, if you had been hanging onto your cable/satellite package just so that you could keep the Regional Sports Network channel that had your team, you can now cut the cord and instead go with this direct streaming plan. Sinclair/Bally’s argument would be that, while it is EXTREMELY pricey as streaming apps go, it’s cheaper than keeping your cable bundle. Bally would likely also say they are working to get NBA/NHL rights – in those same markets – included, so for fans of multiple teams in that market, this would be your streamer for more than one team. Debate as you will whether it’s worth it.
Note that this does not include the Chicago Cubs and Marquee, which have been in discussions with Sinclair about creating their own in-market streaming platform. Either that would eventually get rolled up in this product, or (more likely?) it would forever just be its own thing at a different price point.
Also note that OUT-OF-MARKET game rights still belong to MLB, not the individual teams. So you out-of-market fans would still go to MLB.tv (and/or the national broadcasts) for your games.
Also also note that MLB’s desire is to create its own completely blackout-free streaming platform, but that will take time and very extensive negotiations with the many rightsholders who don’t want fans to be able to get games on a blackout-free streaming platform (because they want you to have to subscribe to the cable bundle).
Also also also note that, in its announcement, Sinclair indicated that it had segmented off the arm of its business that runs its Regional Sports Networks, so it’s not hard to imagine that this new streaming product is an effort to keep that troubled business operation going into the future (and if it doesn’t work, it would be easier for Sinclair to sell that business off without crumbling the whole company).