Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said he wants to launch a league-owned direct-to-consumer streaming service for the 2025 baseball season.
“Realistically, my target to having a digital package I can take to market would be for the ’25 season,” Manfred said at an owners meeting in Florida, according to The Athletic (paywall).
MLB.tv already gives people access to games out of their market, but accessing your local games has typically required authenticating through the regional sports network that has the rights to those that team. It’s those rights that could determine whether the Manfred’s goal of a service launching in 2025 is realistic.
A major hurdle is the drama unfolding with Diamond Sports Group, the parent of Bally Sports. The company is still awaiting approval for a plan to exit out of bankruptcy, with Amazon throwing a lifeline via a $115 million investment and potential partnership to stream its content. Bally Sports has locked up several teams for the upcoming season, and there are still hearings to fully hammer out its relationship with the league.
The MLB wresting back the rights to its teams comes as other sports leagues and teams reconsider their relationship with regional sports networks. Those networks put local games behind a cable bundle, meaning the increasing number of cord cutters don’t have access to the games. That’s a problem if teams want to continue to cultivate a fan base, leading some teams, like the Phoenix Suns, to move back to broadcast television — with the team even giving away free antennas after the switch.
Manfred told the owners that he needs the streaming rights to at least 14 teams to make the service viable, according to The Athletic.
So far, Bally Sports has the rights to the Detroit Tigers, Miami Marlins, Cleveland Guardians, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Angels, Atlanta Braves, Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays, and Milwaukee Brewers.
A spokesman for the MLB wasn’t immediately available to provide more information. A spokeswoman for Bally Sports wasn’t immediately available for comment.
It’s still unclear how the MLB would deliver the service, whether through a standalone streaming service and app or a partnership with another major player like Apple or Amazon.
The MLB will also have to contend with the surprise announcement of a new sports streaming service joint venture from ESPN, FOX, and Warner Bros. Discovery, which Manfred called a positive development, according to The Athletic.