At first blush, MLB’s recent agreement allowing Fox regional sports networks to stream live baseball games within their respective markets may look like a score for sports fans looking to cut the cord on the traditional cable package.
But in reality, the deal is more like a sacrifice bunt advancing the value of the cable bundle to baseball fans in select local markets. MLB’s new digital pitch allows viewers to move from first base where they could only access their local baseball team’s games on their big screen TVs to second base where they can now watch local games on digital platforms -- but not without a swing from the Fox regionals. Viewers have to be authenticated by Fox and cable operators through their cable subscriptions to access local games online.
In another strikeout for cable cutters, subscribers to MLB’s Extra Innings live game out-of-market package will not be able to access their local team’s games online though the reported three-year deal.
The ability for in-market fans of the world champion Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees, Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers or the 11 other MLB teams with Fox Sports regional network deals to watch games on their iPads, phones and computers is a major development for the league and Fox Sports.
For distributors, the deal further enhances the value of the cable bundle to devoted local sports fans who can’t get enough of their local baseball teams. To put it another way, providing online access to Fox Sports’ live telecasts of regional baseball games allows operators to hit a digital home run for their subscribers.