Way back in 2012, a group of fans sued the MLB, DirecTV, various teams, and a number of regional sports channels operated Comcast. The plaintiffs contended that, by divvying up the live-TV baseball market into exclusive territories, and using blackouts to prevent people from watching certain games, they had created an “illegal cartel… to eliminate competition in the distribution of games over the Internet at television.”
The case was finally set to go to a bench trial this morning before a U.S. District Court judge in New York City. However, lawyers for the plaintiffs announced this morning that a settlement had been reached. The league subsequently confirmed a deal, but refused to say anything else.
As part of the deal, MLB has agreed to begin offering its MLB.tv streaming service in single-team streams, at $85/year, about $25/month off the cost of the full MLB.tv package.
That means that a Kansas City Royals fan who lives in Seattle can pay around 23% less if they only want to watch the Royals play.
These streams will be available by the start of the upcoming season, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
By the start of the 2017 season, MLB and any local sports channels owned by DirecTV, Comcast, or Fox are to allow for in-market streaming. Meaning if you’re a Royals fan who can’t make it home for the game, you’ll be able to watch it online… IF you’re also a paying subscriber to a pay-TV provider that carries that particular network.
In some markets, that might not be a big problem. But in some markets it means that fans are continuing to be left out in the dark.
For example, here in Philadelphia, this is more dirt in the wound for Phillies fans who also have DirecTV or Dish. Neither of these companies carry Comcast’s local sports channels, meaning DirecTV and Dish customers in Philly won’t be able to access the in-market streaming options (unless they borrow a friend’s login).
This is also bad news for cord-cutters who just want to watch their local games online and are even willing to pay for it. In some markets, the PlayStation Vue live-TV streaming service includes regional sports networks, which may be a way for cord-cutters to watch their favorite team. But in terms of pricing, PS Vue is not that different from basic cable.
If, for whatever reason, in-market streaming isn’t available for every single one of the affected markets by the start of the 2017 season, MLB.tv will be barred from raising its prices.