Recently, the New York Post ran an article discussing a streaming deal MLB is working on. This deal would allow streaming options for all MLB teams. It wouldn't eliminate the long-standing blackout rules, but it would allow fans of a team who subscribe to a TV package to stream the game through a service like MLB.TV. So far, there's been no official announcement on this deal, and some expect that there are still too many hurdles to clear for resolution by Opening Day.
Despite everything that still needs to happen for the streaming deal to be announced, MLB needs to make this happen. While it's MLB.TV package is generally regarded as one of the best for watching out-of-market games, they are lacking in their overall streaming options. In a world where online streaming is becoming bigger and bigger, this needs to change soon.
TV providers have been working with different sports more and more to get their product distributed to more people. For example, the ESPN3 channel is available for free to anyone who has a participating TV package. For the NCAA men's basketball tournament, you could stream the games for free this year if your TV provider worked out a deal with them. Next season, the NFL will experiment with streaming one game online only, and has suspended blackouts completely for the 2015 season. All of this shows that the need for sports to have accessible streaming options for all is growing by the day.
Under the current system, the only way to stream MLB games is through the MLB.TV package. The pricing on that is $110 a season for the standard package or $130 a season for the premium package. As a package, it's a pretty good deal. You get HD streaming for every game, DVR abilities, can view multiple games at once, and more. The premium package even includes the phone app for free and the ability to watch away from home. If you don't subscribe to that, MLB still provides one game a day for free that you can watch online. Overall, it's very well put together.
However, all of that is subject to blackouts. What that means is if you are in Wisconsin, you can't watch any game through the package. This also applies to all of Iowa and parts of Illinois and Minnesota. For most of us as Brewers fans, that's a dealbreaker. The only ways to get around this are through programs with questionable legality at best (and we will not discuss those here), but beyond that, there's no way to stream a Brewers game online. In addition, all national broadcasts (including the postseason games) are also blacked out. There is an option for postseason viewing, but it involves watching "alternate angles" of the game, which is nowhere near the same experience as the normal broadcast.
If this deal went through, how would it work? There's no details on how a possible deal between MLB and a streaming provider would work, but it would probably be similar to how other channels handle it. Once you access the game on MLB.com, you would be taken to a screen to log in to your TV account, typically whatever online account for cable or satellite you have. For example, in my case it's Dish Network, and in that case I would log into my Dish Network account. After it verifies it's a participating provider, you would get a stream of the game. MLB might require you to have a MLB.TV subscription as well, or they might provide a simple stream to view with no frills without a subscription. This is all speculation at this point, though. Until we see the actual deal, we'll have no idea how it would actually work.
The benefits of allowing additional methods of streaming a game would be big for MLB. It would help distribute their games to more people, and ratings would increase as people could watch the games in additional ways. It would present a more positive image to potential fans who see the sport as stuck in tradition. It could even bring in additional revenue if the proper deals are worked out.
Obviously, the simplest way to fix all of this would be to eliminate those blackout rules. However, with TV deals increasing in value with each new contract signed, that's not going to happen anytime soon. This would be a decent secondary option, though. At least we would have additional ways to watch the Brewers, and it would be a step in the right direction.