Major League Baseball is inching closer to its goal of streaming local, in-market games through MLB.tv. A recent deal with Dish Network hints that the league is certainly working toward striking deals with regional sports networks to give their subscribers access to local games through MLB.tv. From Sports Business Journal:
If MLB is able to secure in-market streaming deals with RSNs holding club deals, the Dish deal provides a path for subscribers to access those games. Dish is the first major distributor to sign a deal with baseball for in-market games on the league’s preferred three-platform approach in which games are simultaneously available on TV, through network and distributor outlets, and through MLB.tv. But the Dish-MLBAM announcement notably includes a disclosure that “in-market game streaming would require additional agreements between the parties including Dish, MLBAM, and programmers with local TV rights of MLB games.” There is no firm timetable for that to happen. The league’s negotiations with RSN groups such as Fox and Comcast are still ongoing but after many months of effort have yet to produce an agreement.
This is a big deal. Local sports, as you know, are sort of the last thing standing in the way of many people cutting the cord. The NFL doesn’t really factor in because most of their games are on network TV, which you can access through a digital tuner and other means. ESPN, which airs Monday Night Football, is dipping its toe into streaming packages that don’t require cable subscriber credentials with Dish’s Sling TV. Hockey and basketball aren’t quite there yet (CSN does allow you to stream Sixers games, with cable credentials), but if Major League Baseball is able to strike a deal with regional networks like FOX and CSN, expect the other leagues to follow suit. But why do I get the feeling that NBC-CSN is going to be the company that holds all this up?
And just because I’m sort of a vindictive prick, here’s the paragraph I wrote in response to Matt Gelb’s piece about the Phillies and their then-upcoming TV contract negotiations (and the faint chance of them launching their own network) in 2012 that led to Gelb flipping out – and telling me in an email that “live sports will always live on through cable” – about me going on the WIP Morning Show to discuss his piece with my harebrained ruminating:
What Gelb failed to mention, though, and what might be a huge issue for TV in general, is that not only are viewing habits changing, but so is the entire industry.
Cable networks might not be needed in five or ten years. You need to look no further than the oft-discussed rumors of Apple reinventing TV this year or next to assume that “TV” might just be streaming Internet and cable companies will be nothing more than high-powered bandwidth providers at the start of the next decade. That vision means that the Phillies launching a “TV” network in 2015 would put them on the cusp of a new medium– streaming television. iTV (or whatever non-branded name the new format takes on) will allow for drastic changes to format and many other enhancements of which we are yet unaware. Not to mention the fact that the Phillies wouldn’t have to fill 24 hours worth of time slots with mundane, generic, old-school content, like CSN does.* Rather, they would just need to produce and distribute their own games, allowing them to be lean and mean and on the cutting edge of a new medium (something like that would mean drastic changes to important league agreements like MLB.TV… which may prove difficult).
Swing and a miss on the own TV network thing. But the rest of it? Spot on. And it’s the regional sports networks delaying the inevitable. Sometimes I’m pretty good at this.