MLB Talks RSNs Going Direct to Consumer

For cord cutters, streaming America’s National Pastime may become a lot easier in the near future. Earlier this week during a keynote interview at the Stream TV Sports Summit, MLB’s Chief Operations and Strategy Officer Chris Marinak discussed the idea of making Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) games available directly to consumers.

“What we’re trying to do now is work with those RSNs to figure out what type of structure would make sense for an over-the-top product that may not require authentication,” Marinak said during an interview at the Stream TV Sports Summit.

This comes at a time when the Bally Sports Network, home of 22 RSNs, is not available on most streaming services, striking out cord cutters on the chance to watch their favorite teams. The only option cord cutters have that carries Bally Sports Network and every other RSN is AT&T TV’s $84.99/month Choice package. Cord cutters have options to watch NBC RSNs, AT&T SportsNet, and other smaller  RSNs in select markets on fuboTV, Sling TV, Hulu + Live TV, and YouTube TV, however, allowing fans to watch direct-to-consumer will give all fans equal access to their favorite MLB teams.

There is a precedent being set about the variability and market for direct-to-consumer options as MLB’s out-of-market streaming MLB.tv service set record-breaking streaming numbers over the opening weeks of the 2021 season.

 Marinak did note that “there’s no blueprint for that right now,” when it comes to making RSNs direct to consumers.“ Since the RSNs are negotiated on a local level via a team by team, or market by market basis, Marinak added that “rights negotiations will be particularly tricky due to all the parties involved, as well as MLB’s interest in retaining overall control over where live game footage plays.”

The MLB and its partners will have to determine a price point that makes sense for all involved. For this to be a significant change, there would have to be a way for fans to truly purchase direct-to-consumer without having to have some type of traditional TV authentication. Since there are many different RSNs providers throughout the country, this will take time and even Marinak noted that “direct-to-customer streaming looks at best like a 2022 prospect.” 

MLB will be taking a big swing with direct-to-customer streaming and time will tell if they’ll strike out or hit a grand slam home run.