The dam has finally broken. In-market streaming is getting much closer to being a reality for MLB in 2016 – but only to those markets with Fox RSNs, covering 15 of the league’s 30 teams.

What finally caused the breakthrough? MLB finally backed off from their demand that authenticated users would have to use MLB.tv to stream the games, and is allowing the streaming through Fox Sports Go instead. Of course, there were also some tech-based concessions on Fox’s side as well. The details from SBJ

MLB moved off of its insistence that it host local games through MLB.com, something league executives wanted so they could ensure the quality of the video streams is high. But that stance proved the biggest roadblock to a deal, as cable operators would have needed to share subscriber data with the league during the user authentication process, something they were not willing to do.

Under the proposed Fox agreement, fans will be able to access games on Fox Sports RSN websites and the FoxSportsGo app, plus distributors’ websites and apps.

As part of the deal, MLB is requiring that Fox’s RSNs use MLB Advanced Media as the vendor to manage the live streams through its new stand-alone BAM Tech operation. Sources said the requirement, in addition to a rights fee that is around 4 percent of a team’s overall media deal, would cost RSNs in the mid-to-high seven figures per team.

Even more money flowing into baseball’s coffers? Of course.

However, it’s not that easy. Comcast is balking at the terms agreed to by Fox because it already has an in-house division that streams sports. Fox uses outside vendors, making the switch to the MLB-supported BAM Tech at least more logical. There’s no reason for Comcast to switch from their own operations to an outside vendor.

And while 15 of the league’s 30 teams have TV deals with Fox and only six have deals with Comcast, those six teams come from pretty major markets – the Cubs and White Sox from Chicago, the Giants and Athletics from the Bay Area, the Phillies from Philadelphia, and the Mets from New York. So while getting a deal done with Fox brings in *more* markets, the lack of a deal with Comcast excludes three of the largest six markets in the country (along with one team in the country’s biggest market).

In-market streaming has been a sticking point for MLB for the better part of the year. They started discussions with Fox in February, but couldn’t get a deal done, but couldn’t get a deal done by Opening Day. The new TV deals that teams were signing with local RSNs had provisions for in-market streaming included. MLB Network also got in the act, becoming the first league-owned network to stream their network to authenticated users 24/7.

But now, it appears that we’re finally going to be getting over the hump for the 2016 season. There’s no word on in-market streaming for the four teams that have deals with the Root Sports RSNs (Astros, Mariners, Pirates, Rockies), the three teams on mainly team-owned, unaffiliated RSNs (Nationals, Orioles, Red Sox), or the Dodgers on Time Warner, but if the Fox domino ends up falling, one can imagine that the other RSNs will fall in line – especially if Comcast and MLB end up playing nice before the beginning of the 2016 season.

[Sports Business Journal]

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.

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