Go ahead and admit it. If you are a diehard baseball fan (and if you're reading this site, you likely are), you've put in the long hours trying to figure out blackout rules, MLB regulations, national broadcast rights, and MLB.TV. Whether that was for your own personal reading interest or an attempt to actually gain better access to games, there's a good chance you've thought about these things at least a few times over the last couple of years.
The Garber case has been in the news quite a bit lately, and we've covered it here in text form and here in podcast form, with The Good Phight's John Stolnis talking to Fangraphs contributor and lawyer Nathaniel Grow about the case.
News finally broke Tuesday regarding the case, as it was settled before going to trial. Intricate, nuanced details are still sketchy, but there is a broad idea of what this may mean for baseball fans going forward. However, there is some other news that may be of immediate interest to Phillies fans.
Let's start with the news from Tuesday first. Forbes will probably be able to better explain this than I could:
Based upon the NHL settlement, the single-team games will be available in-market at a reduced price over the MLB.TV Premium package that is for out-of-market games, but fans will have to authenticate by providing their cable or satellite television provider. The reason for this model centers on the large sums that the networks are paying for local and regional media rights from the individual clubs. To recoup that, fees are passed on to the cable and satellite carriers, and eventually down to you, the fan in your bill.
The important news from Tuesday is this: The premium MLB.TV package, which was $129.99 in 2015, will be $109.99, a decent reduction. A single-team package will cost $84.99, which is great if you're a Phillies fan living in Boston, Detroit, Denver, Los Angeles or somewhere not in Phillies country as determined by Major League Baseball.
However, if you were looking for a way to watch the Phillies this season without the cable bill, you're going to be out of luck. Whether you live in the city, Chester County, down the Shore or somewhere else in the area and wanted to spend $84.99 to watch the Phillies on your computer, phone or tablet, you're out of luck. Yes, there are many of us who want something like this, but it's not happening. Yes, there are some of us who would probably pay $30 a month (or more) for Comcast Sports Net but not a cable bill, but no dice. Sorry, it's just the reality right now.
The territorial rules don't look to be changing for now. They seem to be locked pretty firmly into place. This settlement is not going to rid us of blackouts.
But alas, there may be at least a bit more of a consolation coming. Here are some tweets bookmarked from this past weekend from former Baseball Prospectus Cubs writer Sahadev Sharma, who was attending a team event:
Crane confident that in-market streaming would be available for Cubs games in 2016. Same deal as w/ others, authenticate w/ cable provider— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) January 16, 2016
To clarify a bit, it seems that Comcast games will likely be able to stream with authentication. This seems to be separate from MLBtv— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) January 16, 2016
@SSS_joshnelson should be for everyone on Comcast, it's already the case with FSN teams— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) January 16, 2016
What FSN stands here for is Fox Sports Net, not to be confused with RSN, which stands for regional sports network. The 15 Major League teams that are televised on FSN stations came to an agreement with Major League Baseball last season to stream games in-market. Again, this is of course provided that you are a subscriber to cable and pay your hard-earned dollars for these channels. An authentication process is needed to access these games.
This is good news for those who have been looking to access the Phillies in a different way, though. It's something nice to have. While we don't know exactly how this would work yet, if you are a Comcast Sports Net subscriber and have attempted to access Sixers games on NBC Live Extra, it should work in a similar format. You click, you authenticate, and boom, you can be streaming a game.
This could come into play nicely if the kids need the television and you want to Chromecast the game upstairs on another television that doesn't have a cable box, or maybe you want to go out on the deck with the iPad instead of sitting inside. Better yet, you should be able to access the games down at the Shore if you pay for cable back in Pennsylvania, as South Jersey is still technically in-market. These are just a few examples.
Personally, I have had no issues accessing the Sixers stream with the log-in information at a bar close to home, in the car, or at a friend's apartment in Philly. There has been no red tape about needing to be on your home Wi-Fi network. That could change, of course, but we'll hope not.
While the reports with the Garber case have been saying 2017 for this type of feature it does seem likely per the Cubs' team officials that streaming for Comcast subscribers happens this season. Take it with a grain of salt I suppose, but it would be nice.
There's an important reason to get it done by 2017, regardless:
More details re Garber settlement: Comcast, DirecTV RSNs to join Fox in in-market MLB streaming by 2017 or MLBAM can't raise MLB TV price— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBJ) January 19, 2016
Yeah. That's money they wouldn't want to lose out on. If it doesn't happen in 2016, we'll just go ahead and blame the Cubs for lying to us. However, you're about to have some new ways to watch baseball very soon.