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Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Chicago Cubs in talks to launch streaming service amid resistance from MLB: sources

The Chicago Cubs are in talks with media giant Sinclair Broadcasting to launch a streaming service for customers without a cable or satellite-TV subscription — despite pushback from Major League Baseball on the idea, The Post has learned.

In a deal that insiders say could have league-wide implications, the Cubs and Sinclair are angling to launch the new service following a tough round of negotiations with cable-TV giant Comcast more than a year ago, which resulted in capping monthly fees for the Marquee Sports Network, the broadcaster of local Cubs games, according to sources close to the situation.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is concerned that Sinclair, loaded down with debt after a series of big acquisitions, doesn’t have the cash needed to produce high-quality broadcasts, sources said. As exclusively reported by The Post, Manfred also has been angling to launch a league-wide streaming service as soon as next year….

One key point of concern for MLB, according to insiders, is the $18-a-month price tag that’s being floated for the new Cubs streaming service — a tab that’s higher than what users pay for streaming services like Netflix, HBO Max or Disney+ and which league officials fear will be too high for the average fan.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 23, 2022 at 04:51 PM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: streaming

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   1. sanny manguillen Posted: March 24, 2022 at 08:55 AM (#6068877)
One key point of concern for MLB, according to insiders, is the $18-a-month price tag that’s being floated for the new Cubs streaming service...which league officials fear will be too high for the average fan.


MLB.TV's single team plan is currently $109.99 for the season, or $18.33 per month for six months. What am I missing?
   2. Greg Pope Posted: March 24, 2022 at 09:43 AM (#6068881)
What am I missing?

Cubs fans in Chicago (and many other areas such as Iowa) cannot get Cubs games via MLB.TV. They're blacked out. Of course there's ways around that, but they're not legal.

However, $18 per month is way too high. If you get cable or satellite, you pay something like a $7 per month regional sports fee. Of course, you pay that for all 12 months but that still doesn't equal out.

If they offered it under $10 per month I would sign up.
   3. Tom Nawrocki Posted: March 24, 2022 at 11:38 AM (#6068888)
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is concerned that Sinclair, loaded down with debt after a series of big acquisitions, doesn’t have the cash needed to produce high-quality broadcasts, sources said.


This strikes me as not the real reason Manfred would object, but rather just some nonsense he would throw out to deflect attention from the self-serving reason he doesn't want this to happen....

As exclusively reported by The Post, Manfred also has been angling to launch a league-wide streaming service as soon as next year….


Ah, there you go.
   4. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 24, 2022 at 12:06 PM (#6068894)
I'm trying to figure out MLB's angle why they would be against it? Right now, there are few to no options for cord-cutters. This gets baseball to more eyeballs, what's the big deal? Sinclair already produces shitty broadcasts on cable (it is laughable how many technical issues we've had for Bally Sports KC), so that cow has left the barn already.
   5. Greg Pope Posted: March 24, 2022 at 01:55 PM (#6068912)
I'm trying to figure out MLB's angle why they would be against it? Right now, there are few to no options for cord-cutters

I mean, this is the thing. They have not allowed cord cutters to watch the local team. I just don't understand the reasoning behind this. Again to take the Cubs situation, they get something like in the range of $5 per cable/satellite subscriber. The contract with the providers lock this in and you can't get away from it. If they charge cord cutters $10 they'll get people that they are not getting now. And they make more money per person. The Cubs shouldn't care about the provider's subscriber numbers if they can get people to pay them directly. The only one that loses with this is the providers. There are some level of person who is only on Comcast because they have the Cubs. So they might care about this. But what are their options? And why should MLB care?
   6. Smitty* Posted: March 24, 2022 at 03:14 PM (#6068927)
Uh, how is a league-wide streaming service different than MLB.TV?
   7. Walt Davis Posted: March 24, 2022 at 03:39 PM (#6068933)
MLB's angle is that if the Cubs do it, the Yanks, Dodgers, Red Sox, etc. will be right behind them and then MLB's plan to offer local streaming has no market.

Yes, the price thing is ridiculous. MLBtv with no local streaming costs $130 per year which is nearly $22/month that anybody cares about. Sure that's $11/month if you're a spring training and repetitious offseason coverage fanatic. The only reason I buy it is for Cub games and, being international, to this point I also get the playoffs. If I could get the same deal from the Cubs for $108, obviously I'd save the $22 ... but I assume a Cub local sub (if I even qualify) wouldn't include the playoffs even if they make it. Now, if by $18 a month the Cubs mean $216 per year and you have to buy the full year, then Manfred might have a point.

#6 ... I suppose it remains to be seen if it will be "MLBtv with no local blackout" or it will be two seperate services -- i.e. you can have a national-only sub, a local-only sub or pay extra for both.
   8. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: March 24, 2022 at 03:45 PM (#6068935)
. Again to take the Cubs situation, they get something like in the range of $5 per cable/satellite subscriber. The contract with the providers lock this in and you can't get away from it. If they charge cord cutters $10 they'll get people that they are not getting now. And they make more money per person.


Maybe it's something like this: cable companies are willing to pay $5/per because they know that people will sign up for cable just to watch sports. But if the Cubs gave viewers an option that's much cheaper than a full cable package, they wouldn't be willing to pay $5/per anymore. And because everybody with a cable package pays $5, not just folks who would subscribe to a streaming service, the discount the cable carries would demand would more than offset the increased direct revenue.

Looks like there's 121 million households with cable. MLB probably wants to ensure that they don't endanger that $600m/year revenue stream. (If the $5 figure is accurate, it's actually a bit more than that, since barber shops, airports, etc., often have subscriptions too.)

On the other hand, cable sure looks like a dead industry walking.
   9. Tom Goes to the Ballpark Posted: March 24, 2022 at 04:10 PM (#6068942)
Local RSN payments to MLB teams total significantly more than $600M a year. It is probably close to $2.5B at this point.
   10. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 24, 2022 at 04:13 PM (#6068943)

Maybe it's something like this: cable companies are willing to pay $5/per because they know that people will sign up for cable just to watch sports. But if the Cubs gave viewers an option that's much cheaper than a full cable package, they wouldn't be willing to pay $5/per anymore. And because everybody with a cable package pays $5, not just folks who would subscribe to a streaming service, the discount the cable carries would demand would more than offset the increased direct revenue.


I think that's totally why MLB goes along with blackout restrictions, but if its Sinclair that's offering this, presumably they're the one's most hurt by offering a non-cable option (it undercuts their negotiating for carriage fees if there is less demand) so I don't get why MLB would be against this.
   11. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: March 24, 2022 at 05:06 PM (#6068947)
MLBtv with no local streaming costs $130


Costs me $89
   12. BDC Posted: March 24, 2022 at 05:22 PM (#6068950)
There are innumerable differences between baseball and boxing; the decline of boxing was certainly overdetermined and that of baseball, if it happens, may be too. But there seems at least some parallel in the principle "be careful what kind of windfall you wish for." If the assumption is that everybody will always have cable and that means an open money tap for MLB, that may be fine, but as pointed out in this thread, cable may be in for a downhill slide and baseball may be shackled to it, unmotivated to expand its audiences.
   13. McCoy Posted: March 24, 2022 at 09:15 PM (#6068978)
It's not that PPV killed boxing it's that top level boxers rarely fight and thus it's next to impossible to pull in big money outside of PPV.
   14. The Yankee Clapper Posted: March 25, 2022 at 12:38 AM (#6069011)
Uh, how is a league-wide streaming service different than MLB.TV?
MLB.TV streams out-of-market games (not counting the cheaters). MLB & the teams seem to be looking for a way to stream their games in their local markets. I don’t know the terms of the deals with the regional sports networks, but the RSN’s are paying big bucks, and I’d be surprised if their contracts allowed the teams or MLB to provide the same product to the same audiences on alternative platforms. The RSNs may now be willing to add local streaming to get some $$ from the cord-cutters, but they’d probably litigate to prevent anyone else from infringing on their territory.
   15. McCoy Posted: March 25, 2022 at 04:16 PM (#6069086)
I think the Cubs ownish their RSN and with Comcast capping their carriage fees are probably pretty fine with going after cord cutters.


Lots of other teams have stakes or own their RSN

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