Q. I know the players and owners are still fighting, but when it’s done, will they still have blackouts on MLB.TV? I read somewhere the teams are planning to go streaming for all their games and there would be no blackouts. Is that right? And could blackouts be part of the new labor agreement? — Genny, Des Moines, Iowa.
Genny, assuming there is a 2022 season, and it seems likely there will be, albeit possibly with a late start time, there will still be local blackouts on MLB.TV. The players and owners are in discussions now, but it’s unlikely that the issue of blackouts is on the table.
Of course, the real problem with blackouts is that the channels that pay the teams for the rights to their games want them. If they allowed fans to watch their home team on MLB.TV, they wouldn’t subscribe to the regional sports network that carries it on a cable, satellite or streaming service.
The best hope for cord-cutters is that the regional sports networks (RSNs) launch their own in-market streaming service, which is something both Sinclair (Bally Sports) and Marquee Sports (Chicago Cubs) are either planning or contemplating. This would enable fans to subscribe directly to the RSN without having to get a cable/satellite/streaming service.
Sinclair says it plans to launch its cord-cutting app this spring, but it has only secured the digital rights to four MLB teams. The company says it’s confident of acquiring more, but the ongoing labor impasse is likely complicating that. In addition, MLB has hinted it’s interested in starting its own network of online regional sports channels and that could be yet another obstacle.
Bottom line: The league clearly states on the MLB.TV home page that the in-market blackout rule is still in effect. As of now, MLB is still highly motivated to protect the regional sports channels so it will uphold the in-market blackout.
Last point: Because of the labor lockout, MLB.TV has yet to take orders for the 2022 season. The tV Answer Man will update this article if and when it does.
Genny, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann