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:
UK subscribers to MLBTV are receiving this email - MLB thanks them for being a fan whilst telling them to find alternative methods to view postseason games.— Baseball Brit (@BaseballBrit) October 8, 2022
Fans signed up for a package that included the postseason - so MLB is not honouring what fans have paid for. So bad. pic.twitter.com/4vHGe5REFD
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:
MLB: “We want to increase international presence.”— Max Power (@MaxMakesWine) October 8, 2022
Also MLB: “Our international fans can’t watch the most important month of baseball.”
“Your fandom is important to us.” That’s some ridiculous gaslighting nonsense right there.— Michael Baumann (@baumann_md) October 9, 2022
“Money is important to us.”
They've lost this fan. Not renewing next year, not buying tickets for the London series as planned. Not buying any more merch. I'm going to find a way to watch NPB because I love the game. It was fun for 9 seasons (despite being a Phillies fan)— Paul L (@stepsinpairs) October 8, 2022
Giants aren’t in the postseason so not affected but I won’t be renewing next year, very poor from mlb tv— Jonathan (@Jonathan_Clegg8) October 8, 2022
So glad I didn't renew my @mlbtv subscription this year. I was going to do so mid-season, but was told it would still be at the full season price. I would have been furious to find out that the playoffs weren't part of the deal. Now I'm not mad, but I won't be renewing next year— Matt Findlay (@mattfin20) October 8, 2022
Have subscribed since 2009. Won’t be renewing for next season.— Tim Havard (@rubitocuenca) October 8, 2022
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:
You might want to read the room. We've all supported @mlbtv and helped grow baseball outside of the US, and this is how you reward us? You've just totally let down some of baseball's biggest overseas supporters. No Postseason for us, no Membership renewals for you.— Craig Hurring (@CraigHurring) October 7, 2022
Way to “grow the game,” MLB and Rob Manfred.