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MLB’s Revised Interactive Media Rights Might Make it Possible for Cord-Cutters to Watch In-Market Games

Stephanie Sengwe

It seems changes are coming for Major League Baseball fans who are tired of getting blacked out from in-market games. At the MLB owners’ meetings last week, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred stated that teams had “approved unanimously a revised interactive media rights agreement.” The goal for the revised agreement “was the return of certain in-market digital rights — the rights that have essentially become substitutional with broadcast rights — those rights will return to the clubs.”

Though no specifics were given regarding the new agreement, it’s no secret that the restrictions surrounding MLB.tv have long been frustrating for fans since its conception. According to Yahoo Sports, viewers, over the years, have been blacked out from watching local teams in order to offer expensive exclusivity to regional sports networks.

However, the new revisions could possibly alleviate the disdain. Because the change in policy only focuses on in-market rights, the MLB.tv package still won’t give you access to hometown games. However, for cord-cutters, the new revisions may make it possible for baseball fans “to purchase digital access to the broadcasts of their local team a la carte,” Yahoo Sports said. For the teams, this would be beneficial because they get to sell another product without having to do anything differently.

Reports of the new policy first came out in December last year. At the time, it was reported that the Yankees were pushing for the change, with the goal to sell streaming rights directly to fans.

In September, Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley shared that their partnership with Amazon and the New York Yankees would allow the streaming service to experiment “with a set of games here, providing them over-the-top and adding new features to the viewer experience, like more data, different audio tracks. They’re going to be focused on innovation and improving the consumer’s viewer experience.” It is unlikely that those streams would be made available nationally due to licensing restrictions, but could be made available to those in-market subscribers to Amazon Prime Video.