One of the most ridiculous things in sports, and in particular about Major League Baseball, is the blackout restriction. If you are “local” to a team, you must have a cable subscription in order to watch the local team play on your television. Despite the fact that MLBtv has existed for nearly 20 years, and allows you to stream every single Major League Baseball game if you have an internet connection, if you live in a market you can’t actually watch the team that plays there. You are tied to having to have cable/satellite in order to have the channel to watch those games.

When MLBtv first started, that wasn’t much of an issue. But in the last 5-10 years, cord cutting has become a big thing. Paying $95 a month for cable isn’t something many are willing to do anymore in order to watch four channels. So they’ve cut cable and paid for Netflix and Hulu, paying $20 a month instead. If you are a sports fan, though, it’s not as easy to do that. Sports are making enormous amounts of money these days through their ties to cable channels. When the DVR began to gain popularity, commercials lost their value because people would just record stuff and watch it later, and fast forward through the commercials.

No one watches sports that way. People watch sports live, so they saw the commercials, and in turn, the commercials sold within those programs were huge money makers. It’s why the Dodgers were able to get $200,000,000 per year for their television contract. But as the years have gone by, more people are dropping cable and finding other ways to watch their choice of sports, or not watch them at all. If you live in Cincinnati and want to watch the Reds, you can’t just cut cable and get MLBtv. But if you live in Denver and want to watch the Reds, you can absolutely cut cable and get MLBtv and watch them.

Well, it seems that Major League Baseball may be trying to change that. Sort of. There aren’t exactly specifics out there, but Hanna Keyser of Yahoo! Sports reported that at the owners meetings they voted unanimously to approve a revised interactive media rights agreement. When asked for more specifics, Rob Manfred said this:

The biggest single change was the return of certain in-market digital rights — the rights that have essentially become substitutional with broadcast rights — those rights will return to the clubs.

The article by Keyser implies that what this means is that this isn’t exactly going to apply to MLBtv being able to sell you a Reds package in Cincinnati, but that Fox Sports Ohio will be able to. Currently Fox Sports Ohio gets something like $8 of every subscription to cable/satellite/whatever service that includes the channel. There’s almost no way that it would be that cheap if they sold it as a stand alone option. As a part of the overall cable package they are getting a ton of subscribers to pay that fee even though they will never watch it. Likewise, there are idiots like me who only have cable because of the need to watch Reds games, and I’d cut the cord so quick I’d blow a hamstring doing so if I could just pay Fox Sports Ohio a fee that cut down the cable bill I pay since it’s literally the only “cable” channel I watch.

Fox Sports Ohio is going to want to keep making the same amount of money as they do now, if not more. So they have to price it right so that doesn’t change. I’m just pulling a number out of thin air, but something like $20 a month sounds about right. It is enough for Fox Sports to keep making their money, while losing money from other products they own, but also the right amount that a Reds watcher cord cutter would be willing to pay in-market to get away from the other part of the cable bill that they never intended to use anyways.

Much of this is speculation, but it’s speculation with reasoning behind it. If the option does become available, what would you be willing to pay to be able to stream in-market games? Is my $20 a month proposal too high?

27 Responses

  1. Curtis

    I am one of the sad people who fit into your story. I live in North Carolina but fall into the Reds blackout area, the only reason we have a cable subscription is so that we can watch all of the Reds games. I would happily pay $20 dollars a month to see the games and get rid of the huge cable package I now have just so i can get the Reds games.

    Reply
  2. centerfield

    Honestly, I ONLY reason I have cable is to watch the Reds. $20 a month? – SOLD.

    Reply
  3. centerfield

    Another thought, with the $98 a month I would save, I would be attending at least one more game a month.

    Reply
  4. eeewee

    You can get Sling Blue, which would include Fox Sports Ohio (when Sling and Fox aren’t feuding over contracts) in market for $25/month. So I’m not going for a $20/month Fox Sports Ohio standalone over that, but at $12/month, I’d consider it.

    Reply
  5. Steves.

    What about those who have Fox Sports Ohio blocked by Dish Network due to a disagreement. I have not had the channel since 08/01/19 and still blocked due to the dispute. I want my Reds tv.

    Reply
    • Scott Morton

      I watch them on the Fox Sports Go app. I also have Dish Network

      Reply
  6. Mark Moore

    Here in Raleigh, NC, it’s only when the Nats or Orioles are involved that I’m blacked out. Still, the entire “blackout” thing is an archaic device originally designed to get people to come to the games in person. Times have changed … the rules and restrictions need to change as well.

    Reply
  7. CFD3000

    I’m on the other side of this – living in Atlanta I watch the Reds on MLBTV. But if the only way I could see the Reds was by monthly subscription to FSOhio, I’d be fine to pay about the same. It’s a bit less than $120 per year for the All Teams option so $10 a month if you have to subscribe year round, $20 a month if you only subscribe during the baseball season. I think the sweet spot for pricing would be toward the high end of that range, since anyone in the blackout zone will be saving money in the rest of the forced cable package. I’ll predict about $18 a month.

    For me, I might also consider dropping MLBTV and streaming FSOhio to get all the rest of the Reds TV content – pregame, post game and weekly magazine shows. No idea if that’s being taken into account, but it’s another potential revenue stream.

    Reply
  8. Hotto4Votto

    I had Sling for college basketball season and would switch packages for baseball season. I was able to watch the Reds on Fox Sports Cincinnati all of 2018 and half of 2019. For whatever reason Sling and Fox Sports Cincinnati couldn’t come to an agreement and in July I didn’t have the ability to watch the Reds anymore. So I paused my subscription until November when basketball started back up.

    The reason I liked Sling is I can start and stop whenever I want and can make the change online. I also get about 20-30 channels, most with on-demand, for less than a third of paying for cable. Those other channels for me helped justify the cost.

    I don’t think I’d pay $20 bucks a month just for the Reds though. That’s a lot just for one channel I’m only paying attention to for six months. The busyness of life will prohibit me from catching plenty of games as it is, and that’s not accounting for the fact I wouldn’t be able to watch any weekday afternoon or West coast games to begin with because of work.

    Reply
    • Redgoggles

      I had Sling for the same reasons, but ended up switching to Hulu which has Fox Sports Ohio (and BTN), basically everything Sling had and more. (Although it does cost more per month.)

      Reply
  9. Jackson

    Hulu live offers fox sports Ohio and the SEC network. I’m just waiting for my contract with direct TV to expire in May to cut the cord.

    Reply
    • wes

      Sweet! Now I can keep the two channels I need while getting rid of Bravo so my wife can’t watch that crap anymore lolz

      Reply
  10. Scott C

    Years ago MLB teams made their profit from ticket sales and concessions and while that is still not a drop in the bucket, the major income for a team comes from TV contracts. The idea of blackouts is outdated. I pay for MLBTV and can watch every Reds game unless they are in DC or Baltimore because we are considered in their broadcast area. I feel for Curtis in NC and agree with Mark Moore. Times have changed

    Reply
    • Wayne nabors

      My problem is I live outside st.louis and I get mlb.tv,but when reds are playing cardinals which is 18-19 games a year I have to watch fox sports midwest.so when my wife cut back on cable last year I had to go right back during baseball season to watch reds-card games.

      Reply
      • Bred

        I spent several months in Godfrey, IL this summer and set several people up with YouTube Tv. They could watch their Cards and Blues games on the local Fox Midwest. Much cheaper than cable.

  11. TR

    I’ve found MLB.com reception to have improved over the last couple years and it’s nice to have access to the games of all 30 ML teams. When the Reds play the Rays, I get the game on local TV.

    Reply
  12. DES

    I’ve been using Sling, VUE & HULU TV to catch Reds games. If my option is to spend $20/mo to just have Fox Sports, or to spend $30-$40 to get that and other channels, I’ll go the more expensive route because others in my household will use those channels.

    If Fox Sports was in the $10-$12 range, then I’d do it. I’m in Central Indiana and fall in the blackout area for the Reds (and Cubs, WS and Cards). There is a lot of money to be made here if they don’t try and overcharge.

    Reply
  13. jim walker

    I’m also a Blue Jackets follower; so, I’d be willing to shell out $20 a month the year around for an FSOH package.

    However, I would hope that would also include all the content I can now stream via the FSGo app on my Spectrum subscription.

    For those not familiar, this includes most Big10 Network stuff and most of the FS1 package content. It would also be nice if it included Fox over the air sports so a person wouldn’t have to be switching apps or going to OTA mode on the TV for that.

    However, as things stand now, I think my best choice to stream would be YouTube TV. It would get me all of this plus ESPN and NBCSN (Premier League) plus MLB Net for less than $55 a month along with the OTA networks and specialty channels my wife watches. Throw in the unbundled internet rate here of $65 a month (100mb) and this may be cheaper than buying direct from Fox et al at $20 a month.

    Reply
    • jim walker

      The issue where I live is that there is only 1 broadband provider, Spectrum. There are a couple other broadband marketers in the mix but they run on Spectrum’s physical network; thus, there is no real alternative.

      So, starting from the base rate of $65 a month for unbundled broadband the ~$20 each for specialty channels soon adds up to just having a Spectrum bundle deal or alternately Spectrum broadband and a full streaming service like YouTubeTV

      Reply
  14. BK

    The hurdle to do this is a distribution system—that’s the role cable providers currently serve. I would look for local affiliates to sell their rights via the streaming services next. Not my area of expertise, but I would think companies like FSO selling directly to customers would be labor intensive and therefore expensive. $20/ month seems like a reasonable shot in the dark from a distributor’s perspective, but to many customers it would be a big sticker shock as you can get a sizable package of channels for about $25/month.

    Reply
    • jim walker

      You are correct that the distribution system is a capital intensive thing. However it already exists and is being used for the streaming that exists today. For example, I already watch most of the Reds and Blue Jackets games via streaming on a laptop or tablet.

      When I log onto the FSOH application now from my tablet or laptop, I have to select my cable provider (Spectrum) and am authenticated against their subscription database before I get into the door to watch the game. Thankfully, I only have to do the log in periodically, once or twice a month, when they seem to cancel existing logins and make everyone reauthenticate.

      If Fox is selling the Reds directly, they just would just direct me to their user subscription database for authentication before they let me in versus checking me against the Spectrum subscriber list.

      You are probably wondering, but how would this work with my TV? If you have cable, the FSOH would likely just be a premium channel similar to other premium channels like HBO. You pay the cable company and they make things so it is available through your cable box like any other channel.

      If you cut the cord and stream then you’ll have to buy a device like a Roku or Amazon Fire (typically available for less than $50) that plugs into your TV and connects to your home wireless. The device will have a FSOH application on it. You will choose that and log in like I described above.

      Reply
  15. MBS

    $20 would be outrageous. Your logic is that they need to charge more is wrong. There are a small subset of the viewing public that would dump cable (that haven’t already) to pay for Fox Sports.

    My ESPN+ is like $5, obviously ESPN gets a ton of money from the cable viewers, but wanted to pickup the cord cutters like me. They weren’t going to pick up more viewers by charging $20.

    If it happens, look for a $5 or $6 dollar rate.

    Reply
    • Doug Gray

      There’s zero chance that they will charge $5-6 because they get more than that from the cable company for the channel. And the only reason it’s only ~$8 from the cable company for each subscriber is because it’s bundled together with other channels, so a lot of people who never watch the channel are also paying $8 a month for that channel. It’s going to be more expensive.

      Also, with ESPN+, you don’t get live ESPN with it. You just get the ESPN+ content. You still need to actually have a cable subscription to get the regular ESPN stuff live.

      Reply
      • Bred

        Check out YouTube.tv. I live in Texas, but when I googled YouTube.tv for 45242 I found you can get Fox Sports Ohio. YouTube.tv is about $54 a month.

      • MBS

        Time will tell, but you’re arguing that they will price it as if they are about to lose all of their cable money.

        “ And the only reason it’s only ~$8 from the cable company for each subscriber is because it’s bundled together with other channels, so a lot of people who never watch the channel are also paying $8 a month for that channel.”

        You are exactly right, and those people who never watch the channel will continue to pay every month, like they are doing today. FoxSports will try to pick up the money they are loosing from all of the cord cutters out there.

        That’s why it will be much lower than the $20. Also “Zero chance” is a little strong of an assertion. I would doubt you have enough info to say Zero chance, I just said $20 would be outrageous. I’ll stick to my number. It’s going to be a lot closer than your $20

      • Doug Gray

        I didn’t say it was going to be $20. I asked if it were as expensive as $20 if people would pay for it.

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