MLB, Fox Sports Agree To Three-Year Deal For In-Market Game Streaming, Beginning In '16
MLB has reached a three-year deal with Fox Sports to begin in-market game streaming for the 15 clubs in Fox’ RSN portfolio with the start of the '16 season, representing a significant breakthrough in what has been a years-long battle between the sport and its media partners to offer games locally on digital platforms. The deal, yet to be formally signed, will call for in-market games to be available to Fox RSN subscribers through the Fox Sports Go application and through distributors’ websites and apps. MLB Advanced Media’s BAM Tech unit will serve as the technical vendor to manage the authenticated streams. Speaking Thursday in Dallas at the quarterly owners meetings, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said, "This is a huge step forward for the industry. We’ve been working on this for a long time. The media landscape is changing very rapidly, and we think it is a real positive to have our content available on as many platforms as possible." Fox in a statement said, “We have reached an agreement in principle with MLB for authenticated streaming of our local telecasts, and are working to finalize details." SportsBusiness Journal first reported the impending deal with Fox back in August (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). Manfred said, "We have begun and will continue conversations with the rights holders for the other 15 clubs and hope that the in-market streaming program will be comprehensive for the 2016 season." MLB.com's Paul Hagen noted Manfred also touched on the topic of "negotiations to spin off BAM Tech." Manfred said, "Realistically, the timetable is early 2016" (MLB.com, 11/19). USA Today's Bob Nightengale said, "It is tough to TiVo a baseball game -- too many people know the score and tell you what’s going on -- so Rob Manfred’s hope is that all 30 teams will have this within a year or two" (“MLB Tonight,” MLB Network, 11/20).
LUCKY NUMBER SEVEN: Manfred on Thursday also unveiled a new broadcast schedule for the first two days of the '16 season. ESPN will carry seven games nationally, including a Mets-Royals World Series rematch as the "Sunday Night Baseball" game on April 3. That game, however, will be supplemented by two others earlier that Sunday and four more national broadcasts on April 4 that collectively will involve every '15 playoff club. The new broadcast and scheduling structure changes the nature of the start of the season, which in recent years has typically been one Sunday night game followed by a full Opening Day on a Monday. The last day of the '16 schedule will again feature a 3:00pm ET start for each game to give each club a level playing field in postseason preparation. Meanwhile, Manfred added there was discussion among the owners this week regarding the MASN media rights fight, and their view of a recent court decision to vacate an arbitration award for the Nationals. But he declined to go further, describing those talks as "privileged" (Fisher).