It’s a fact of life in 2021: Modern TV consumers are “cutting the cord” and leaving their cable or satellite subscriptions behind for other means of consuming TV programming.
This has been an issue for baseball fans. Regional sports networks, including the Cubs’ Marquee Sports Network, have insisted on a subscription to cable or satellite before permitting in-market streaming of baseball games. This has been frustrating for Cubs fans who are cord-cutters, because as of now just two streaming services (AT&T TV and fuboTV) carry Marquee — others, such as Hulu+ and YouTube TV, have either resisted carrying the channel or did last year, but no longer do so.
Now, according to this report from Rob Pegoraro at Fierce Video, MLB is about ready to acknowledge that the cable model of broadcasting is ending and that they have to find a way to get the games to fans in another way:
Major League Baseball is considering a rule change that cord cutters can cheer. After years of relying on traditional distribution of local games via cable and satellite (plus, to a limited extent, over-the-top streaming), MLB is now urging its regional sports networks to explore direct-to-customer possibilities for local fans.
“What we’re trying to do now is work with those RSNs to figure out what type of structure would make sense for an over-the-top product that may not require authentication,” said MLB’s chief operations and strategy officer Chris Marinak in a “Producing OTT Sports Content” keynote interview I led at the Stream TV Sports Summit.
As in, instead of asking online viewers to authenticate themselves with login credentials for a TV service already carrying a regional sports network’s programming, the RSN would sell service direct to those fans.
Marinak earlier hinted at this possibility in an answer at MLB’s March 17 media preview event: “We are speaking with all the distributors about ways to make a direct sports offering available to consumers in that market.”
This is excellent news for cord-cutters and what makes me think that this will become reality soon is that the quote comes directly from a MLB executive. That shows that they are aware of the issue and are trying to figure out a way to sell over-the-top (OTT) subscriptions to RSNs in teams’ market territories.
I wouldn’t expect this to happen in 2021, as there are a lot of moving parts here and a lot of things to decide for RSNs.
But eventually, perhaps as soon as next year, I believe that this will happen and that you’ll be able to subscribe to Marquee Sports Network in a stand-alone way if you’re a cord-cutter.
As always, we await developments.