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MLB.TV takes promised postseason games away from fans in the UK and other countries

This is not a good look for you, Rob Manfred, but it’s also not surprising.

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Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball says it wants to promote the game internationally. To do so, it’s going to hold several games in Europe — the UK and France — over the next few years, including the London Series in 2023 involving the Cubs and Cardinals next June.

This is a good thing. Promoting baseball in other countries helps grow the sport and can create new fans all over the world.

MLB had promised international fans that if they paid for MLB.TV this year, that package would include the postseason.

Only now, it doesn’t, at least not in the UK:

What has happened here is that MLB sold exclusive rights to postseason games in the UK to BT Sport, a cable/satellite channel there. This is typical MLB shortsightedness, taking immediate money up front, damn the consequences.

I asked the good folks at the @ChicagoCubsUK Twitter account for some further details. Here’s what happened:

Quite simply, all of the playoff / post season has been blacked out to us as MLB.TV subscribers. This has never happened before, and information during subscription at the beginning of the season assured access.

MLB have done this because they’ve struck a deal with a TV sports channel called BT Sport, who are now showing all these games. Unfortunately, BT Sport is also subscription based and quite expensive PLUS has a track record of poor coverage (starting seconds before first pitch, only showing games on one channel so if one runs over you miss the start of the next, etc).

So what’s happened here is that MLB recognized what they had done, to an extent, and gave MLB.TV subscribers in the UK access to the Wild Card Series, but then told them to make “necessary adjustments” for future postseason games this year.

As you can imagine, that did not go over well:

There’s a lot more along these lines in the replies to @BaseballBrit’s tweet, worth checking out.

I have not been able to determine how much MLB pocketed from their deal with BT Sport, but whatever it is, similar to the streaming deals they signed in the US with Apple TV+ and Peacock, MLB has prioritized short-term gain over the long-term growth of the sport. Instead of honoring a deal they made with MLB.TV subscribers in the UK when they signed up this year, they’ve made a lot of baseball fans there angry.

The UK is apparently not the only country where this happened — more on this from Evan Drellich at The Athletic. And one more relevant tweet:

Way to “grow the game,” MLB and Rob Manfred.