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Play Ball! If you can find it…

With the return of the abbreviated 2020 Major League Baseball season, some fans may find watching their favorite team is harder than it’s been in the past, especially the growing number of cord cutters. 

According to industry analyst, NoCable, almost 20% of US households now rely on streaming streaming services to get their TV fix. Television deals in sports have long been a significant revenue stream for professional sports teams, but now without fans in the stands to drive ticket sales, broadcast rights are becoming increasingly more important to teams, fans, and broadcasters alike.

“Major League Baseball is unique,” says Brad Edmonds, Metro Monitor’s Director of Business Development. “With a normal 182 game season for each of the MLB’s 30 teams, there’s no way the major sports networks can show every game like they can with the NFL. That’s where regional sports networks step in.” 

It’s these regional sports networks that will likely give cord cutting baseball fans the most headaches when picking a streaming service. “The number of streaming options has grown dramatically in just the past few years,” Edmonds says. “There’s services vying for viewers and content that simply weren’t around when some of these teams negotiated their TV deals. Every service wants a piece of this sports content, but broadcasters recognize how valuable it is too and want a fair shake when they’re negotiating with streaming platforms.”

This competition has led to contract disputes – most notably between Sling and Fox resulting in the Fox Sports regional stations ultimately being removed from the streaming platform in 2019. For baseball teams that broadcast most of their games through the Fox Sports regional networks, the options for cord cutters are becoming fewer and fewer. How will this affect the 2020 season?

“As with much of life during the COVID pandemic, there’s a lot of uncertainty. I think it’s likely there will be a demographic of cord cutters that will find access to these regional sports networks compelling enough to switch streaming services – some of them for good. At the same time, it’s a shortened season so fans could switch back to their old service later this year, bite the bullet and get a cable or satellite subscription, or simply go without for the 2020 season and just watch their favorite team when they’re on ESPN, FS1 or some of the other major networks.” 

Major League Baseball’s regular season returns to the diamond on July 23rd for opening day highlights between the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants – the rest of the League returning to play the following July 24 – 26 weekend.