MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is targeting the 2025 season for a new direct-to-consumer streaming package that would allow fans to watch in-market games, he said at the owners’ meetings Thursday. That package would include at least half of MLB teams.
“Realistically, my target to having a digital package I can take to market would be for the ’25 season,” Manfred said (via The Athletic).
Currently, MLB’s streaming option — MLB.tv — allows fans to watch out-of-market games only. If you’re in Dallas and want to watch the World Series champion Rangers, you will be blacked out on MLB.tv. The new streaming service, which might be separate from MLB.tv entirely, would essentially eliminate blackouts and allow fans to watch their local teams.
The biggest hurdle is securing the digital rights for enough teams to make the package viable. Diamond Sports Group, which operates the Bally Sports regional networks and is currently going through bankruptcy proceedings, controls the digital rights for several clubs. Also, big-market teams like the Dodgers and Yankees may not give up their lucrative digital rights.
Last week Diamond reached agreements with the Guardians, Rangers, and Twins for the 2024 season. Their digital rights will be available in 2025. MLB will continue broadcasting Diamondbacks and Padres games in 2024, as well as the Rockies, so their digital rights are available as well. MLB has to find another 8-10 teams or so to make a streaming package viable.
Manfred and MLB can not unilaterally end blackouts because of existing local television contracts, though Diamond’s bankruptcy has opened the door for several teams to regain their digital rights. One way or another, MLB seems determined to create a streaming service that allows fans to watch in-market games, andit could be available as soon as 2025.