For the first time, major-league baseball will have three nationally-televised games on Opening Day, Sunday, April 3, 2016.
ESPN and MLB announced Thursday that they will, as expected, carry the rematch of the 2016 World Series -- Mets at Royals -- in an exclusive Sunday night, April 3 telecast that will start at 7:35 p.m. CT.
The network will also carry two other games that day (on a non-exclusive basis):
Then, ESPN will carry four games on Monday, April 4:
So, all 10 teams that made the postseason will be shown on ESPN on either April 3 or April 4. The Cubs game, though carried on ESPN, will not be an exclusive -- some local channel, to be determined, will carry the game in the Chicago market. The good news is that you should be able to see this nationally even in the usual blackout areas.
Mark your calendars, then, for a late-night game April 4 for the Cubs season opener. It hasn't been made official yet, but this probably means the next day, April 5, will also be a night game in Anaheim.
A couple other schedule- and TV-related notes: it was also announced Thursday that for the second straight year, all the games on the season's final day, Sunday, October 2, will start at the same time, 2 p.m. CT. According to MLB: "The overlapping schedule aims to maximize the excitement of Postseason races throughout the sport on the season’s final day."
MLB also announced that the Pirates and Marlins will play a two-game series in Puerto Rico, May 30 and 31, the first time regular-season games have been played there since 2010. These will count as Marlins home games.
Finally, as had been rumored last year, MLB and Fox announced a deal for in-market streaming of games:
Manfred: formally announced 3 yr deal w Fox for in-market streaming— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBJ) November 19, 2015
Unfortunately, this doesn't include Cubs games:
Fox's MLB teams w local rights: ATL, CIN, CLE, TEX, DET, KC, LAA, MIA, MIL, MIN, NYY, AZ, SD, STL, TB— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBJ) November 19, 2015
Hopefully, MLB will be able to make deals in the future with Comcast and other rightsholders so that Cubs games can be streamed in-market (thus eliminating blackouts). From the link above, here's the apparent sticking point:
As part of the deal, MLB is requiring that Fox’s RSNs use MLB Advanced Media as the vendor to manage the live streams through its new stand-alone BAM Tech operation. Sources said the requirement, in addition to a rights fee that is around 4 percent of a team’s overall media deal, would cost RSNs in the mid-to-high seven figures per team. For MLB, the requirement to use BAM Tech will ensure that the streams’ video quality will be secure. But the requirement remains a significant sticking point for other RSNs, sources said. Fox uses vendors like Anvato and Akamai for its FoxSportsGo service and appears willing to use BAM Tech in a similar way. Comcast, which holds the rights to six MLB teams, is less inclined to use it because it already has a division that streams sports programming that is generally regarded as high quality — such as the Olympics streams for NBC and local NBA streams for its RSNs.
Complicated, I know, but the league at least took baby steps in the right direction today.
It's just 137 days until the Cubs and Angels take the field in Anaheim for Opening... Night. I have adjusted the countdown clock at this link (which is always on the front page) to reflect the game time announced today.