MLB reached a settlement in an antitrust class-action lawsuit challenging baseball’s TV blackout rules and the availability of out-of-market game broadcasts on Tuesday. Shortly before the case of Garber v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball was scheduled to be heard, the two sides reached a deal.
Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan posted details of the settlement on Twitter:
MLB was reportedly ready to offer single-team packages for MLB.tv for the 2016 season, but this deal makes it official and puts a number on the package. Access to one team’s entire season of games will cost fans $84.99, and for an additional $10 (with an authenticated login), viewers can watch “in-market” games involving that particular team which previously would have been subject to local blackout rules.
Last November, MLB and Fox also reached an agreement to stream in-market games for the 15 teams which have a regional broadcast agreement with Fox Sports. But you have to be a subscriber (again, with an authenticated login) to that network’s local cable package, which still keeps cord-cutters on the outside looking in. That requirement also applies to this new MLB.tv arrangement.
Those who prefer to purchase access to every MLB regular season game will also get a cheaper rate, with that package now priced at $109.99. Previously, the premium league-wide package cost $129.99. So that’s a savings of nearly $50 if you’re a Royals fan living in Alabama or Brewers fan in Oregon, who just wants to that team’s 162 games without having to buy every other game on the schedule as well. Not a bad deal. And MLB’s offer is considerably less expensive than single-team packages from the NHL ($105 per season) and NBA ($120).
What about local TV blackouts, especially for fans considered within a team’s broadcast territory and thus prohibited from watching games on a streaming TV package? (Think of those poor fans in Iowa who aren’t allowed to watch six teams — Cubs, White Sox, Brewers, Twins, Cardinals and Royals — who claim that blackout territory.) No word yet on if those rules will change, but the settlement terms that were release do not address that issue. There is still work to be done on behalf of baseball fans denied access to the product they want to watch.