After the liberation of the YES Network from Fox earlier this year, the New York Yankees and Amazon are poised to stream a package of in-market game broadcasts directly to consumers–potentially the first such streaming deal in Major League Baseball.
The final details have yet to be announced, but it’s being reported that the Yankees and Amazon are working on a streaming deal aimed toward cord cutters untied to traditional cable contract–an increasingly large part of the video consumption audience. These free agents would be able to purchase a game package and watch games on their phones, tablets, PCs or streaming devices like the Amazon Fire, Apple TV or Roku. These deals are also referred to as OTT, or over-the-top streaming media.
MLB teams decided to move ahead with in-market streaming for 2020 and beyond after a vote this fall. Previously MLB controlled the rights to in-market streaming and sold them separately from the broadcast contracts teams signed with over-the-air and cable broadcasters. The move means that teams can structure their own in-market streaming deals, either with over-the-air and cable broadcasters or directly to consumers.
Provided they have the legal ability to do so, of course. Many MLB clubs are in the midst of cable deal with regional sports networks that do not allow for in-market streaming. The Yankees, since they own a chunk of the YES Network (partnering with Amazon and Sinclair), don’t have this problem. With Amazon becoming a player in sports streaming with NFL and soccer Premier League contracts, it would seem a natural that Amazon and the Yankees would take the next step forward and issue a Yankees subscription. From the New York Post:
The plan by the Yankees’ YES cable-TV network is to allow online streaming for a limited number of Yankees games — possibly on Amazon’s Prime Video service — starting as soon as the 2020 baseball season, sources said. The ultimate goal is to provide an annual streaming package at a cost — say one year for $99, sources said.
The move comes as the Yankees saw its TV ratings drop 17% this year — despite the team winning their division. While earlier game times were a main culprit, cord-cutting also played a role, sources said.
“The Yankees will drill down and try to develop a real good streaming product,” a source with knowledge of the streaming plan told The Post. Fans could get “some” games as soon as next year, but not all, this person added.
As noted, the Yankees are in a unique position to do this because they own a portion of the YES Network. The Chicago Cubs are in a similar situation with the launch of the Marquee Network in 2020, but at the present the team is working with cable systems in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa and have not announced any plans for a streaming subscription. Other teams, such as the Royals and Marlins, will be in a position to address in-market streaming rights when their current deals with regional sports networks end in 2020, but it could take several years before every fan has the ability to buy a subscription for their favorite teams.
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