The San Diego Padres, at least for broadcast purposes, are effectively without a home, couch-surfing, as a temporary measure, on MLB.TV. We were warned of this possibility months earlier when Diamond Sports filed for bankruptcy, leaving its 19 regional sports networks in flux. Still, the latest development in the ongoing RSN saga is unprecedented with Diamond, following multiple missed payments, willingly relinquishing its broadcast rights to MLB.
Where the Padres go from here is anyone’s guess. In lieu of a permanent solution, games will be broadcast on MLB.TV and available to stream for $19.99 a month or $74.99 for the remainder of the season. Locally, Padres games will appear on a variety of stations including DirecTV Stream (channel 694-3), AT&T U-Verse (781), Spectrum San Diego (305) and California YurView (4). The silver lining—if there is one—is that Padres games will be available in twice as many households as before, expanding their reach from 1.13 to 3.264 million homes.
"We bring you the next evolution of @Padres baseball coverage."
Bob Costas ushers in the latest innovation and introduces San Diego baseball fans to MLB-produced broadcasts. pic.twitter.com/Ko3vAedvEX
— MLB (@MLB) May 31, 2023
However, this patchwork approach is probably unsustainable with the Padres and MLB likely to weigh all their options. In fact, according to sports media reporter Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, Padres games could find a short-term home on ESPN’s streaming service, ESPN+.
What’s in it for ESPN? Easy. In exchange for its platform, the network would get a cut of the $19.99 monthly subscription, limiting sales to customers within greater San Diego by employing a technology known as “geofencing.” It’s one of many ideas the league is considering amid the Padres’ current predicament, left high and dry by the collapse of Diamond Sports and, in a broader sense, the entire RSN construct.
This is probably where sports are headed with leagues and teams uncovering a clever new revenue source, embracing the streaming revolution by putting more and more games behind paywalls. Mindful of setting a precedent, the Padres will provide the ultimate test case for MLB, experimenting with a direct-to-consumer model that could be a groundbreaking innovation in the way we consume live sports, but also a burden to fans tired of jumping through hoops.