Readers of this website know that this author is among the last people on Earth who would go out of his way to promote an MLBAM business decision, but here you are, reading a post by me notifying you that MLB.tv is on sale today for a loosely speaking fair-ish price.
Of course, this occasion mostly serves as a reminder of MLB’s callous media-distribution practices. Six years ago, the league settled an antitrust lawsuit attacking things like its telecast blackout policy and centralized MLB.tv product by agreeing to make pricing and offering concessions to fans. Specifically, the seasonal price of the full MLB.tv package at that time would drop from $129.99 to $109.99, and the league would create a new, single-team package at a seasonal price of $84.99. These prices were to remain fixed for five years (i.e., through the 2020 season), subject to annual increases only up to the higher of three percent or the rate of inflation.
Now, that settlement agreement has expired, and MLB is seizing the opportunity to undo its effects. Most obviously, across-the-board pricing is up, doubly insulting as the league simultaneously excludes games from the full MLB.tv package for the benefit of its new partnerships with NBC and Apple.
Perhaps even more underhanded, however, is the soft killing of the single-team MLB.tv package. When first offered, the single-team option was priced at seventy-seven-percent of the full package price, then a twenty-five-dollar difference. MLB now has aggressively closed that gap. At today’s sale pricing, for example, the cost of the single-team option has jumped to eighty-six-percent of the full package price, just a ten-dollar difference. Stated otherwise, someone considering a single-team package can receive a thirty-fold increase in programming for just ten additional dollars. “Even you dummies know that’s a good deal,” fans hear Rob Manfred saying in their heads, even as they wonder why it doesn’t quite feel like a deal. The move to neutralize the single-team package feels like a purely spiteful move designed to achieve the functional undoing of one of the settlement agreement’s most visible achievements without any meaningful cost savings to MLB.
As I have been writing here for years, the message should be a simple one: “Rather than changing the game he wants people to watch . . . Manfred ought to change the way people can watch the game, obviously by making it easier for them to do so.” For how much longer can Manfred continue to squeeze baseball’s fans– including, as a recent example, Padres fans required to purchase yet another streaming service to watch this morning’s Peacock-exclusive game against the Atlanta Braves beginning at 8:35 am San Diego time– remains to be seen.