Major League Baseball fans, it’s time to get excited. Yahoo Sports has reported that the MLB has “approved unanimously” to split its interactive media rights agreement. What this means is that in-market blackouts for MLB fans could be coming to an end.
The biggest single change was the return of certain in-market digital rights — the rights that have essentially become substitutional with broadcast rights — those rights will return to the clubs.MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred via Yahoo Sports
By taking back digital rights, MLB teams can stream games to in-market regions. So, expect new or existing streaming services to be showing your teams soon.
It’s bigger news than just an end to MLB blackouts. Ramifications include:
- Proof that in-market blackouts failed to encourage fans back to stadiums — if that was ever their true purpose. This means other broadcast blackouts could end, too.
- It hammers another nail in cable TV’s coffin. Without rule over major sports, cable TV becomes even more of a husk.
- MLB rights could end up driving up streaming costs for fans of the sport, as they’ll likely need to subscribe to multiple services to get all the games.
This change isn’t going to happen overnight. It could be 2020 or later before fans get to see new ways to watch their favorite teams. What is certain is that this change will create a bidding war for the rights to stream games via services that aren’t locked by region.
It’s made for Amazon
Having seen Amazon already pick up rights to live tennis and soccer, it’s not far-fetched to imagine the MLB streaming on Prime. It’s America’s national pastime, and over half of the U.S. already has Prime accounts.
Baseball and Amazon is almost a marriage made in heaven. The service could even sell merchandise while streaming games. It’s a scary, but realistic prospect — especially as the NFL is so restrictive with their brand wares.
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