Living in the second largest city in the State of Iowa, baseball fans in Cedar Rapids should matter to Major League Baseball. Yet, due to a combination of archaic territory rights and you guessed it, money, there is only one very expensive way for fans of four regional MLB teams to subscribe to any service available today (or known to be in the planning stages) to see these clubs in action.
This is what is behind the title of my prior post, “In-Market Streaming Nice, but Not the Big Problem.” Plans are being worked on to bring streaming of MLB games to FOX regional sports network customers – but only those viewers who already subscribe to the FOX channels via their cable or satellite provider.
That is good, but what about those who do not have all of these choices?
No fewer than six MLB teams claim the entire state of Iowa as their home territory – both Chicago teams, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City and Minnesota. As a result, all six clubs are blacked out across the state in both the MLB.tv and MLB Extra Innings pay offerings.
That would be understandable – if the Iowa consumer was given the choice to subscribe to any or all of the five regional sports networks that carry the six “local” teams – whether they are a current cable or satellite customer.
In reality, that is not the case, however. Cable companies make business decisions as to which regional networks they will make available to their customers. Many RSNs do not make the cut.
Let’s continue with Cedar Rapids as but one example of a widespread problem. Local cable companies Mediacom and ImOn offer just one regional sports network to their subscribers – Comcast Sports Net Chicago. That enables the viewer to catch a subset of Cubs and White Sox games.
That means Cedar Rapids fans of the Cardinals, Twins, Royals and Brewers with cable are completely out of luck.
Specifically, Cardinals followers living in Cedar Rapids cannot subscribe to FOX Sports Midwest from either cable provider. While they could pay for MLB.tv or MLB EI, it would do them no good, as Cardinals games are blacked out – because St. Louis is one of the six local teams.
Same for Royals fans wanting FOX Sports Kansas City, Twins fans looking for FOX Sports North and Brewers followers willing to subscribe to FOX Sports Wisconsin. These teams’ games are simply not available via cable (or online) in Cedar Rapids.
The only option for these customers would appear to be DirecTV. Their Premier tier, which is the only one that includes the FOX Sports regional networks, is very expensive. It costs $89.99 per month for the first 12 months and $136.99 per month for the second year of a two-year commitment – plus an additional Regional Sports fee may also apply.
This is a very heavy proposition – over $2,700. It is especially painful when you consider that it is more than 10 times the price of MLB.tv (just $129.99 for an entire season). Sure, you get a jillion more channels for the additional money, but what if you just want to watch Cardinals games?
Until these serious territory inequities are fixed, I will be far less excited about news that those who can already see games will soon be able to do so on additional platforms, too.
Why doesn’t MLB invest its efforts in getting games to everyone in a fair manner first?
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