TV Answer Man, the baseball season starts this week and I have YouTube TV and it looks like they won’t get a deal with Sinclair and Bally Sports for my regional sports channel here in the San Diego area. I won’t be able to watch my Padres who may be a good team this year. Is there anything a cord-cutter can do? Do you think there could be a deal by opening day? I don’t want to get cable again. — Dave, San Diego.
Dave, the 21 Bally Sports regional sports networks, which are owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, are not available on YouTube TV, Hulu Live, Sling TV or FuboTV, four leading viewing alternatives for cord-cutters. (The 21 channels were officially renamed Bally Sports today; previously they were called Fox Sports.)
Sinclair has been unable to reach a new carriage agreement with the four services, and I don’t expect they will before opening day on April 1. In fact, I don’t foresee a settlement for weeks, if not months.
Since the RSNs have the regional rights to broadcast the games of dozens of MLB, NBA and NHL, many streaming subscribers are unable to watch their home teams. This has become a more urgent issue this week with tomorrow’s opening of the 2021 MLB season.
If your home team is carried by a Bally Sports channel, and you don’t want to return to cable and satellite TV, you have two options and both have a catch.
1. Subscribe to AT&T TV
AT&T TV, the telco’s streaming service, offers the Bally Sports channels (and just about every other regional sports channel you can think of, including Marquee, MASN and SportsNet LA) in its Choice and Ultimate plans. The streamer does not require a contract, and it does not charge a regional sports channel fee. You also can watch AT&T TV on an app, or via a company-supplied set-top, which costs $5 a month.
The problem, however, is that AT&T TV’s Choice package costs $84.99 a month while the Ultimate plan goes for $94.99 a month. The cheaper Choice plan is $20 more a month than YouTube TV, Hulu Live or FuboTV. That may be a bit much for consumers who left cable and satellite in part because of the high cost of their programming packages. You can learn more about AT&T TV here.
2. Get a VPN & MLB.TV Subscription
The VPN is a software that you can download that will enable you to use an IP address different from your own. For instance, if you live in San Diego, you could insert an IP address in your streaming devices that would say you live in Denmark. Then, you could subscribe to the MLB.TV online package (pre-season price: $129.99) and watch the Padres on Bally Sports San Diego because the the IP address wouldn’t say San Diego.
The catch here is that using a VPN could violate the terms of MLB TV’s agreement. It also could be illegal, although that’s less clear. (You can learn more about VPNs here.) But you would be able to watch your home town team, and there’s no doubt that many fans use VPNs to skirt the blackouts.
Dave, hope that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann