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MLB Commissioner Aims for D2C Platform by 2025 as Teams Tap Streaming Models

MLB Commissioner Aims for D2C Platform by 2025

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred reportedly aims to introduce a direct-to-consumer (D2C) streaming service for the league by 2025, a move that comes as sports viewing overall becomes increasingly digital and streaming-based.

Manfred wants to address the challenge of digital platforms that do not allow fans to view a given team’s games within that team’s territory, solving the common issue of “blackouts” where in-market consumers cannot access the content, The Athletic reported this week.

“Realistically, my target to having a digital package I can take to market would be for the ’25 season,” Manfred said, per the report.

Teams’ contracts with external media companies such as Diamond Sports Group could prove a sticking point.

Across sports media, key players are increasingly turning to D2C channels. For instance, on Tuesday (Feb. 6), Fox, ESPN and Warner Bros. Discovery announced a joint venture to launch a new streaming sports service in the United States. Scheduled to launch in the fall of 2024, the new streaming service will be available directly to consumers through a new app. The collaboration aims to create a platform that will offer a lineup of sports content, including thousands of high-profile sporting events from major professional sports leagues and college sports.

Meanwhile, Amazon is making a minority investment in Diamond Sports Group, making the latter’s content, which includes MLB, NHL and NBA games, available for purchase via Prime Video, according to an announcement from Diamond last month. Consumers will have the option to purchase D2C access to this content through Prime Video channels.

Individual teams across different sports are also launching their own streaming platforms. In September, NBA team the Utah Jazz launched its paid Jazz+ D2C subscription service, providing access to game livestreams, exclusive shows and other content. Plus, in October, the Phoenix Suns launched their own D2C streaming platform, Suns Live, and in the same month, the Los Angeles Lakers partnered with Spectrum SportsNet to launch the D2C Spectrum SportsNet+.

Some baseball teams are already doing the same. Over the summer, for instance, MLB team the Chicago Cubs launched a direct subscription via Marquee Sports Network, and Marquee said last month that in the six months since its launch, the number of subscribers to the service has exceeded expectations by 20%.

However, many consumers want fewer streaming services, not more. The PYMNTS Intelligence report “The One-Stop Bill Pay Playbook: Drivers of Consumers’ Bill Payment Priorities,” which drew from a survey of more than 2,100 U.S. consumers, found that when consumers are unable to pay all their bills, streaming subscriptions get the axe. Fifty-five percent of participants said they would cancel streaming subscriptions if they needed to reduce the bills they received each month. This share was greater than said the same of any other monthly bill.

Plus, roughly 1 in 4 U.S. subscribers to major services like Netflix, Hulu and Disney+ have canceled at least three subscriptions in the last two years, and streaming service cancellations are on the rise.