For those of you here who are attorneys -- and I know you're out there -- here's the complete text of the settlement agreement in Garber et al vs. The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, announced yesterday.
We learned yesterday that MLB will be reducing the price on its MLB.tv league-wide annual subscription by $20 per year, from $129.99 to $109.99, making it a pretty good deal. They'll also be offering single-team packages, meaning you could buy a package of only Cubs games, for $84.99. Beyond 2016 these prices can rise by no more than 3 percent a year (or the annual national cost-of-living adjustment, whichever is greater).
What we know now from the complete agreement is that if Comcast cable systems or DirecTV chooises to offer these single-team packages, you'll be able to get it from them as well (or any other provider who agrees to sign up). That's a good deal if you're a subscriber to one of those services. The deal says that if those providers offer the single-team package for one team, they have to do it for all the teams. I'd expect that to happen.
Further, for subscribers to Extra Innings on Comcast or DirecTV, you'll get a 12.5 percent price reduction from your 2015 price. That will apply for 2016 and 2017.
There's also a provision for "Unserved Fans," meaning people who can't get cable or satellite service where they live. Those fans would be able to get packages that include in-market games. You'd have to fill out an online form to prove you are in an "unserved" area.
Finally, there's the "Follow-Your-Team" option, which we discussed here previously and which I admit I still don't completely understand. Here is the language regarding that option from the agreement, paragraph 58, if you're following along:
a. MLB will offer MLB.TV subscribers the opportunity to purchase a "Follow-Your-Team" Package, which, subject to the conditions below, will be an enhanced MLB.TV Package permitting a subscriber to view on an Authenticated basis (as described in Paragraph 58(c) below) all Local Game Telecasts produced by the Out-of-Market RSN affiliated with a single Out-of-Market Club (selected by the subscriber at the time of subscription), even when that selected Out-of-Market Club plays an In-Market Club. Those Local Game Telecasts will be available (through Authentication) to the subscriber in addition to the Local Game Telecasts of all other MLB Clubs otherwise available through the traditional MLB.TV Package, which other telecasts would still be subject to blackout restrictions. b. Each Authenticated subscriber to such Follow-Your-Team Package will be able to watch his or her selected Out-of-Market Club’s Local Game Telecasts for the duration of their annual MLB.TV subscription, including those played against any Club within the HTT in which the fan resides, provided that the In-Market RSN affiliated with the Club within the HTT has given consent for participation in such Follow-Your-Team Package and such subscriber remains Authenticated. The Comcast RSNs, DIRECTV RSNs and YES (on behalf of itself, and having secured and delivered the consent of each of the other 21st Century Fox RSNs that has an agreement with an In-Market Clubs to carry Local Game Telecasts of MLB Club games) have agreed to provide consent for participation in such Follow-Your-Team Package subject to the remainder of this Agreement. MLB will endeavor to obtain the consent of other applicable RSNs. MLB shall promptly seek SNY Board approval for the terms contained in this settlement agreement so that SNY would be included in the settlement for the upcoming MLB Season. In any event, MLB will ensure that at least one of SNY, NESN, MASN, and SportsNet LA will provide such consent by the start of the 2016 MLB Season. c. Such Follow-Your-Team Package will require Authentication by the applicable In-Market RSN and MVPD to ensure that the MLB.TV subscriber is also a pay television subscriber of the In-Market RSN and is receiving the game telecasts of the In-Market Club that the selected Out-of-Market Club is playing. d. MLB will endeavor to obtain the approval and cooperation of MVPDs for such Follow-Your-Team Packages. At a minimum, such Follow-Your-Team Packages will be available (through Authentication) to subscribers to Comcast and DIRECTV (each of which MVPDs will cooperate in such authentication), except where it would require the consent of an RSN that is not one of the Comcast RSNs, DIRECTV RSNs or 21st Century Fox RSNs, unless such RSN has provided that consent under paragraph 58(b). MLB will ensure that at least two of the following other MVPDs make the product available (through Authentication) to their subscribers during the 2016 MLB Season AT&T U-Verse; DISH; Time Warner Cable; and Verizon FiOS. Failure of MLB to ensure that two of these MVPDs make such Follow-Your-Team Packages available will not constitute a breach by any non-MLB Defendant. Defendants will use commercially reasonable efforts to launch FYT as soon as practicable, and in no event later than during the 2016 MLB Season. If the requirements of this Paragraph are not fully implemented by the time of the 2016 MLB All-Star Game by any particular Defendant, then the requirements of Paragraph 58 shall not terminate as to that Defendant until the end of the 2021 MLB Season, notwithstanding any other provision of this Agreement. e. MLB will provide such Follow-Your-Team Packages for the 2016 MLB Season at a total price of $119.99. f. MLB may offer a Follow-Your-Team upgrade to subscribers during the 2016 MLB Season to MLB.TV for the difference in price between the two, which must not exceed $10. All eligible 2016 subscribers who purchase MLB.TV before FYT is available to them must be permitted to purchase an FYT upgrade when it is made available in 2016. g. For the remainder of the term for which this Paragraph 58 is effective, MLB may increase the price of such Follow-Your-Team Packages on an annual basis by no more than 3% or that year’s COLA, whichever is greater in that particular year. h. The requirements of this Paragraph 58 will terminate as of the end of the 2020 MLB Season, except as provided in Paragraph 58(d). MLB agrees to implement its obligations under this Paragraph 58 beginning with the 2016 MLB Season.
If anyone here can post a real-world example of how the above would affect Cubs fans living both within the blackout areas ("HTT" as noted in the quote stands for "Home Team Territory") and outside the home team territory, I'd appreciate it. The other abbreviation in the above quote that probably requires explanation is MVPD, which stands for "Multichannel Video Program Distributor," basically a cable or satellite provider.
This ought to keep you busy on a cold winter's day thinking about baseball. Have at it.