Cord-cutting — people leaving cable or satellite subscriptions — has picked up in recent years.
One of the things that people who do that have lost is the ability to watch their local MLB team if they live in that team’s market territory, since virtually all MLB games are now broadcast on regional sports networks and not on over-the-air broadcast channels. Which brings me another opportunity to post this MLB RSN territorial map:
Thus, if you live anywhere where it says “CHC” (most of Illinois and Indiana, part of Wisconsin and all of Iowa), you cannot watch the Cubs on Marquee Sports Network unless you have a cable or satellite subscription.
The good news I have to report to you today comes from Josh Kosman of the New York Post:
Major League Baseball is in talks to launch a nationwide video-streaming service that would enable fans to watch their teams’ hometown games without a cable-TV subscription, The Post has learned.
The web-based service — which could address a decades-old annoyance for baseball fans that some have partly blamed for the league’s steadily declining viewership — could launch as early as the 2023 season, a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations said.
Essentially, what this would mean to you if you live in the Cubs’ market territory and are a cord-cutter, is that you could sign up for this new streaming service — which would be separate from MLB.TV — and watch Cubs games currently broadcast on Marquee Sports Network. I would guess this would cost somewhere around $10 per month for in-market fans, presuming it’s limited to a single in-market RSN. Such a service would probably not include Marquee’s non-game programming, although it would likely include the pre- and post-game shows, as those had begun to be carried by MLB.TV and MLB Extra Innings during the 2021 season.
If you live outside the Cubs market territory, you’d continue to watch Cubs games the way you have in the past, via a MLB.TV or MLB Extra Innings subscription.
Here are a few more details from the New York Post article, including what MLB would do about the main sticking point for this sort of thing up to now and why we have blackouts in the first place:
Sources said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred could end up offering cable-TV giants a piece of the streaming revenue to compensate for potential subscriber losses. Manfred’s pitch is that cable TV won’t lose many subscribers, as MLB is mainly targeting younger customers who have already cut the cord, sources said. The cable companies don’t have streaming rights but could retaliate by paying less to broadcast games if they don’t like the bargain, sources said.
As for the teams, MLB’s streaming service would pay them based on viewership in their local markets. One MLB owner said the league has kept its owners appraised, and believes it has general support though no vote has been taken. Indeed, the MLB and team owners are concerned over dire forecasts for viewership. Roughly half of Americans will not be watching cable or satellite TV within a few years, according to Pew Research Center annual surveys.
All of that is true, and it does appear that Manfred does, at least, understand this situation and is attempting to do something about it.
As noted in the first quote from the article, this wouldn’t begin next year, but could start as early as the following season, 2023. For the sake of those of you who are cord-cutters, I hope so.
As always, we await developments.