Why MLB Doesn’t Want You to Watch Baseball


It’s the summer of 1998. You turn on your box TV and tune into channel WPIX to watch your favorite team from New York play some baseball without having to pay any extra costs for cable services or streaming services. You certainly didn’t have to worry about the fact that you are living in the same area as where your favorite team plays, 

Now fast forward. The year is 2023, and Opening Day is here. You turn on your TV and you open up the streaming service that you have to pay an absurd amount of money for, but stick with because it is still cheaper than buying cable. You click on the game that has your favorite team playing and you are met with an error message stating that you can’t see your favorite team that is from the same area as you, because who would want to do that. Weird right? Major League Baseball doesn’t think so.

Over the past couple of years, with tons of new streaming services that provide sports games and other companies such as Amazon and Apple creating their own streaming services, it has become harder and harder to watch sports (particularly baseball) games without having to pay for supplemental services. Growing up in a family that has never paid for any type of cable service, I’m already used to not being able to watch as many games on TV. Occasionally there would be a weekend game on national broadcasting channels such as NBC and ABC, but other than that, I was unable to watch my two favorite teams in sports, the Yankees (MLB) and the Rangers (NHL), play their games. However, over the last two or three years specifically, MLB has advertised and introduced new platforms to watch “all” of their games, as well as spring training games. From a customer perspective, these services appeared as ways to watch MLB games while also avoiding paying for cable. And because of this, many fans (such as myself) decided to buy these services, thinking that we had landed a great deal. We were most definitely wrong. 

Out of the many streaming services that advertise themselves as platforms to watch baseball, the main two that I am targeting are ESPN (+), and MLB.TV. Just this past year, my dad purchased a subscription to ESPN+, and both of us thought that it would allow us to regularly watch the Yankees play baseball. To our surprise, the first Yankees game we tried to watch was blocked because of a restriction that denies you from watching games that have your local team playing in it. This is called a “blackout.”

You may be wondering why Major League Baseball restricts its fans from watching the team in their area play, and their answer is simple, but frustrating. Rather than streaming services that MLB themselves advertises, local sports broadcasting services called “regional sports networks” or RSNs, such as YES in New York, MASN in the Maryland/D.C. area, or Bally Sports throughout most of the country, own the rights to the game broadcast for the team you want to watch in your region. This is because regional broadcasting services depend on viewers from their specific region to keep it going. In order to gain access to these services such as Bally Sports, you have to pour your money into expensive and monopolistic cable providers, which is something that I already know my family and I are not interested in doing.

The whole dilemma with blackouts isn’t even the worst aspect about this issue over the past couple of years. The latest trend involves major companies, not generally known for broadcasting sports, deciding to create their own streaming services. Apple, Amazon, and even NBC (Peacock) have made streaming services where you can watch movies, TV shows, and sports, one of those sports being baseball. Just this past season, MLB made deals to sell the rights to their games to these companies, with Apple gaining rights to certain Friday night games, Peacock gaining rights to certain Sunday games, and Amazon gaining rights to games randomly spread throughout the season.

MLB may advertise for a “season package” or a one-and-done deal where you can watch baseball without cable or without any hassle, but there is no such thing. If you wanted to watch all the games your favorite team plays in a single season, you would be approximately spending $800 a year between all the different services: a ridiculous amount for something you could do every night just by turning on your box TV, no cable, no streaming services, within living memory.