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MLB working on in-market streaming service for 2023


MLB in talks to launch nationwide streaming service for home games without cable TV

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The web-based service... could launch as early as the 2023 season, a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations said.

The National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League are also considering partnering with MLB on the new streaming service, sources said. Insiders say subscription rates would vary by geographic market and could be between $10 and $20 a month

 

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I think it is just clumsily worded, and "home" and "hometown" in the article just mean "local" (as in local team). MLB.TV blackouts have never made any distinction between home and away games, and I doubt that would change.

The idea sounds like an in-market streaming service, separate from MLB.TV (which is an out-of-market service). Which makes sense, as they are two separate audiences, just as MLB.TV subscribers and pay-TV customers are today. In-market fans may not want to pay for out-of-market games, and out-of-market fans vice-versa.

Of course, it says it wouldn't happen until 2023 which makes me think a lot of negotiations are still involved -- they could just be trying to drive up the cost of the streaming rights for someone else to buy them (or buy into this service as a partner?).

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Or, you know, just make every game available to subscribers, regardless of where they live. That would be EASY. Also, let me choose the feed. Phew. I'm exhausted with all this complex thinking.

BTW.....the revenue from teh other leagues .... will that just be more "non-baseball" revenue that wouldn't exist w/o baseball?

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7 minutes ago, Mike Sixel said:

Or, you know, just make every game available to subscribers, regardless of where they live. That would be EASY. Also, let me choose the feed. Phew. I'm exhausted with all this complex thinking.

They could roll it all into MLBTV, but then the price of MLBTV would jump quite a bit.

I think it makes sense to leave the out-of-market product as-is, and then have a new in-market product. Especially if they use variable pricing by market, and they can effectively bundle with in-market NHL/NBA streams too.

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I would love to see MLB do something like this along with NBA, not a NHL fan. I jumped from Hulu, YoutubeTV, AT&T which became DirectTv streaming, over the past few years to watch Twins games. To me this is a great way for MLB to help level the playing field for small market teams- equally distribute the TV money to each MLB team. 

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19 hours ago, Otto von Ballpark said:

The idea sounds like an in-market streaming service, separate from MLB.TV (which is an out-of-market service). Which makes sense, as they are two separate audiences, just as MLB.TV subscribers and pay-TV customers are today. In-market fans may not want to pay for out-of-market games, and out-of-market fans vice-versa.

I dunno - I kind of read that as being something along the lines of MLB selling a streaming 'baseball' service that would make MLB.tv a single subscription for any game.  The technology for that is certainly already there.

The only problem is that MLB selling streaming access to games suddenly makes the RSNs much less valuable in the eyes of cable carriers, which will certainly reduce the amount they are willing to pay for carriage fees.  Why charge the HGTV / Food Network only crowd for local market baseball games?

MLB stands to gain in better control of the distribution of the product, MLB stands to lose on the revenues in the current cable package market. Hopefully the latter doesn't make the former hard to swallow. It feels like it's a future they need to prepare for anyway.

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55 minutes ago, Sousy said:

MLB stands to gain in better control of the distribution of the product, MLB stands to lose on the revenues in the current cable package market. Hopefully the latter doesn't make the former hard to swallow. It feels like it's a future they need to prepare for anyway.

I think this is the meat of it.  Those local cable deals are about to go away.  Baseball is going to have to pay their way out of every regional contract at some point and get a national, shared revenue stream going.  Regional broadcasting limits the way the league markets the product, creates massive disparities in revenues, and causes this spiderweb of broadcasting that pretty much everybody gets annoyed with at some point or another.

$20 for all three sports might be a plausible selling point, but it's at the very top end of plausible.  People get a helluva lot more with their streaming dollars than that proposal most of the time.

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2 hours ago, nicksaviking said:

So are they trying to clump together with the NHL and NBA so that that $10-20 monthly fee has to be locked in for an entire 12 months instead of the 6 months for baseball season?

That's my guess.

Sportsnet and TSN (Canadian sports channels) both offer this with their standalone streaming packages, each starting at $15-20 per month or $150-$200 per year, respectively.

One complicating factor is that Sportsnet has all Blue Jays games, but Raptors and Maple Leafs games are apparently split between Sportsnet and TSN.

So $20/month for all Twins, Wild, and Wolves games could arguably be a better deal.

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5 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

$20/mo is entirely reasonable for three sports. That’s over 320 games a year, bringing cost per game under $0.75.  I don’t know what more we could ask for, frankly. 

Frankly I don't think that price point stays if the leagues combine forces.  Especially with the NHL rejoining ESPN and the way both of those leagues have marketed their own products/services.

People don't view streaming prices on a "per thing I watched" basis IMO.  They look at the bottom line and the frequency of use.  $20 would enter the market significantly higher than services that offer live sports already along with a host of other content.  I have serious doubts it would be a model that would be a great selling point.  Hell, the only reason the selling point even seems reasonable is relative to the cluster-f that currently exists.   If they are getting out of that model, I think they need to really think outside of it.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I when I think of successful streaming services they all put their foot in the door by having cheap prices relative to their competitors, great content with depth, and prioritizing exposing their brand over raw subscription dollars.  I'm not sure if this sounds like any of that.

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2 hours ago, TheLeviathan said:

$20 for all three sports might be a plausible selling point, but it's at the very top end of plausible.  People get a helluva lot more with their streaming dollars than that proposal most of the time.

As a comparison, MLB lists a yearly subscription for today’s MLB.tv at $139.00 / year. (Though I’ve never paid full price because of the usual 1/2 price offers.) I could see MLB offering some kind of streaming package for that amount (or realistically more) with carve outs for national games, playoffs, etc.

 

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12 hours ago, Sousy said:

As a comparison, MLB lists a yearly subscription for today’s MLB.tv at $139.00 / year. (Though I’ve never paid full price because of the usual 1/2 price offers.) I could see MLB offering some kind of streaming package for that amount (or realistically more) with carve outs for national games, playoffs, etc.

Yeah, I'm guessing that in-market streaming may have a comparable cost as the current out-of-market price ($130 per season, or ~$22 per month). And with greater demand, there'd be less need to offer in-market promos like 50% off or free T-Mobile subscriptions.

And that would explain why MLB would want to keep in-market and out-of-market in separate packages -- it would be easier to get consumers to sign up for one or the other at a lower price than force them to get both combined at a notably higher price. (Although they could offer some kind of combination discount for those interested.)

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14 hours ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

$20/mo is entirely reasonable for three sports. That’s over 320 games a year, bringing cost per game under $0.75.  I don’t know what more we could ask for, frankly. 

It's $120 per game if you only plan on watching one Wolves or Wild game.

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1 minute ago, nicksaviking said:

It's $120 per game if you only plan on watching one Wolves or Wild game.

Or you just cancel the moment the seasonal sport you care about completes its season. I do it with literally every streaming service I use except for Amazon Prime, which I keep entirely for the shipping.

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1 minute ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

Or you just cancel the moment the seasonal sport you care about completes its season. I do it with literally every streaming service I use except for Amazon Prime, which I keep entirely for the shipping.

I would if that's an option.

Unlike the other services, I'm skeptical they'll let you cancel this without a commitment; why else are the three leagues trying to combine forces instead of working it out individually?

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20 minutes ago, nicksaviking said:

I would if that's an option.

Unlike the other services, I'm skeptical they'll let you cancel this without a commitment; why else are the three leagues trying to combine forces instead of working it out individually?

Because sports fans are generally a pretty cohesive group. If there isn't 100% overlap, there's a lot of overlap.

And spooling a service up and down (eg. March-Oct for baseball) incurs a lot of expense in itself. Taking something offline costs money, just as spooling it back up costs more money. And then there's the production staff, which isn't typically seasonal and would make the necessary positions more difficult to fill. Never mind that having one advertising group is more efficient and effective while costing less. Then there's the airtime that needs to be filled between games...

I could go on all day why three separate services are a much worse idea and much less salable to the general public than one cohesive service that covers multiple things that complement each other very well (one summer sport played daily, two winter sports played semi-daily).

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12 minutes ago, nicksaviking said:

I would if that's an option.

Unlike the other services, I'm skeptical they'll let you cancel this without a commitment; why else are the three leagues trying to combine forces instead of working it out individually?

Sportsnet and TSN have monthly options in Canada, and of course MLB.TV, NBA League Pass, and ESPN+ all have monthly options here in the USA too. I don't see any reason why there wouldn't be a monthly subscription option for this new service too, just at a higher per-month rate than the annual option.

If the leagues work it out individually, an "annual plan" isn't as marketable, and their subscriber bases would be much more volatile.

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The only concern I have with keeping the in-market and out-of-market separate is that it could create blackouts for people living in a market other than the team they want to watch--for example, me living in Seattle.  When I used MLB.TV this year, I could watch every Twins game--except for when they played the Mariners, regardless of where the game was played.

As such, streamlining to simply have one service, one cost (at least as concerns MLB) simply makes the most sense.  At some point, the regional cable channel will disappear anyways, so why not get ahead of it now?

I like the idea of partnering with the NBA and NHL, and could see a program where you subscribe to one sport for $120, 2 sports for $200, and all 3 for $240.  Each league keeps 100% of the revenue when they're the single sport, 50% when they're one of two, and 33% when one of three.  Maybe you start with a feature that allows you to get a discount in return for only seeing teams from one  market (say for $160), in order to help people transition from the RCNs, and then eliminate that in 5-10 years.  If you can get even 30M "All Three" subscribers (which is not even 25% of the total US), that would be $7.2B in revenue.

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19 hours ago, Cap'n Piranha said:

The only concern I have with keeping the in-market and out-of-market separate is that it could create blackouts for people living in a market other than the team they want to watch--for example, me living in Seattle.  When I used MLB.TV this year, I could watch every Twins game--except for when they played the Mariners, regardless of where the game was played.

As such, streamlining to simply have one service, one cost (at least as concerns MLB) simply makes the most sense.  At some point, the regional cable channel will disappear anyways, so why not get ahead of it now?

They could offer a combined package, at a higher rate (maybe a slight combo discount). But I think they'd also want to keep them separate, as most of the time, fans will just want one or the other at their lower separate rates. (Plus MLB.TV has ~20 years of branding as an out-of-market service already, and the new in-market service may need to be co-branded with NBA and NHL.)

And with monthly or even weekly in-market options, you'd have the flexibility to add the Mariners in-market service just when they played the Twins, at a cheaper overall cost than paying for in-market the whole season. Keep in mind, for any random 3-game series in a 162-game season, you may not even be in town or otherwise available to watch them.

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18 hours ago, Cap'n Piranha said:

I like the idea of partnering with the NBA and NHL, and could see a program where you subscribe to one sport for $120, 2 sports for $200, and all 3 for $240.  Each league keeps 100% of the revenue when they're the single sport, 50% when they're one of two, and 33% when one of three.  Maybe you start with a feature that allows you to get a discount in return for only seeing teams from one  market (say for $160), in order to help people transition from the RCNs, and then eliminate that in 5-10 years.  If you can get even 30M "All Three" subscribers (which is not even 25% of the total US), that would be $7.2B in revenue.

Reports have mentioned that the price of this service would vary by market. Part of that could be what NBA and NHL teams are available to partner with -- it might be cheaper in Wisconsin, for example, without an NHL team. (Or maybe the Wild and/or Blackhawks could try to expand their reach?)

But in a place like Minnesota, for example, I doubt they'd let you separate Twins and Wolves and Wild. The idea behind the partnership would be for each sport to gain viewers and stability from the others.

You could still effectively subscribe to just one sport's season on a monthly plan, although you'd still get the other sports if the seasons overlap. That would provide viewers incentive to watch the other sports and maybe even sign up for an annual plan instead, at a lower per-month rate.

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Beyond what it means for fans, I wonder what it means for MLB team revenue disparities.

From the report:

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Insiders say subscription rates would vary by geographic market...

As for the teams, MLB’s streaming service would pay them based on viewership in their local markets.

To me, this sounds just like the current cable model, where teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers etc. make a lot more money than, say, the Twins.

If this just shifts the cable money to streaming, nothing much changes from the status quo, I suppose. Although this could be a good opportunity to lessen that disparity somehow, with a more equitable revenue split.

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14 minutes ago, Otto von Ballpark said:

Reports have mentioned that the price of this service would vary by market.

This just makes me feel like Iowans will get screwed by MLB yet again..."Oh, you're in the home market for 6 teams, so your in-market streaming will actually be $120/month, not $20/month"

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14 minutes ago, chaderic20 said:

This just makes me feel like Iowans will get screwed by MLB yet again..."Oh, you're in the home market for 6 teams, so your in-market streaming will actually be $120/month, not $20/month"

I think Iowa is in a tough place now because there's no real incentive for those 6 teams to relinquish it as broadcast territory. If the Twins gave up Iowa right now, for example, all that would happen is more Iowans would subscribe to MLB.TV, but the Twins would only see 1/30th of that extra revenue as it is split equally among all teams.

On the other hand, direct in-market streaming would give the Twins incentive to actually be available in Iowa at that $20/month price point, otherwise they receive nothing from that territory.

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2 hours ago, Otto von Ballpark said:

They could offer a combined package, at a higher rate (maybe a slight combo discount). But I think they'd also want to keep them separate, as most of the time, fans will just want one or the other at their lower separate rates. (Plus MLB.TV has ~20 years of branding as an out-of-market service already, and the new in-market service may need to be co-branded with NBA and NHL.)

And with monthly or even weekly in-market options, you'd have the flexibility to add the Mariners in-market service just when they played the Twins, at a cheaper overall cost than paying for in-market the whole season. Keep in mind, for any random 3-game series in a 162-game season, you may not even be in town or otherwise available to watch them.

The whole point I'm making is that adherence to a "market" strategy is archaic--it creates a siloed fanbase and inhibits overall growth.  The goal should be to get people to watch as much baseball/basketball/hockey as possible, and with a streaming service, there's no reason why a Minnesota native living in Seattle should have any barriers to watching Twins/Wild/Wolves games.  One package, one price (based on how many leagues you want access to).  Having separate models based on where a consumer lives is just non-sensical in a streaming world.

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3 hours ago, Otto von Ballpark said:

Reports have mentioned that the price of this service would vary by market. Part of that could be what NBA and NHL teams are available to partner with -- it might be cheaper in Wisconsin, for example, without an NHL team. (Or maybe the Wild and/or Blackhawks could try to expand their reach?)

But in a place like Minnesota, for example, I doubt they'd let you separate Twins and Wolves and Wild. The idea behind the partnership would be for each sport to gain viewers and stability from the others.

You could still effectively subscribe to just one sport's season on a monthly plan, although you'd still get the other sports if the seasons overlap. That would provide viewers incentive to watch the other sports and maybe even sign up for an annual plan instead, at a lower per-month rate.

They should let you separate.  I'll pay $120 a year to see every Twins game--I don't have much interest in access to Wild/Wolves games (and I'm sure there are Wild fans who would say the same about the Twins/Wolves, and Wolves fans Wild/Twins), and I might not be willing to pay $240 to see every Twins game.  There is significant crossover between MLB/NBA/NHL fans, either at the league or market level, but there is a significant group that has no crossover, and forcing them to take a product they don't want, and paying more for the product they do want because of it, is not a good strategy.  It's like Delta telling potential travelers that they can only book a flight if they also reserve a hotel and a rental car through Delta as well.  Will a lot of people be ok with that?  Sure.  Will a lot of people decline to book with Delta, and use their money to pursue other interests instead?  Absolutely.

The other sports gain the viewership and stability by being discounted to the subscribers--Twins subscribers happy to pay $120 for the Twins, might not be interested in paying $120 for the Wolves, or the Wild.  But if they can add both on for $120?  That's something that could happen.

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3 minutes ago, Cap'n Piranha said:

The whole point I'm making is that adherence to a "market" strategy is archaic--it creates a siloed fanbase and inhibits overall growth.  The goal should be to get people to watch as much baseball/basketball/hockey as possible, and with a streaming service, there's no reason why a Minnesota native living in Seattle should have any barriers to watching Twins/Wild/Wolves games.  One package, one price (based on how many leagues you want access to).  Having separate models based on where a consumer lives is just non-sensical in a streaming world.

The lack of in-market streaming is archaic. But I'm not so sure that market delineation in general is archaic, or that it is even bad for the consumer. Most fans in Minnesota have little or no interest in non-Twins regular season games, and I don't think they'd want to pay for them. I think a lot of Twins fans scattered around the country likewise don't have much interest in their "local" team either.

Much remains to be seen here, of course -- maybe they'll wind up with a plan where fans in Seattle can just purchase a Twins package, that would be fine by me and would satisfy your requirements as well. But I think it still makes sense to package it separately from the league package.

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