Streaming service Sinclair RSN is preparing to come off the bench this summer

The opening day game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field.
(Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images Sport via Getty Images)

America’s largest regional sports network owner has yet to launch Major League Baseball games on streaming platforms, meaning many fans may miss streaming options until mid-season or longer. late.

Sinclair said it will soft-market streaming options for five MLB teams this year. At this point, that might not happen until summer, well past the April start of the baseball season. Such a delay could weigh on the success of Sinclair’s MLB streaming launch this year, as fans must decide whether to switch platforms or viewing formats mid-season.

Analysts attribute part of the delay to a long negotiation process leading to Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. recently signed renewal agreement with Charter Communications Inc., the largest pay-TV distributor in several key markets for the broadcaster’s regional sports networks.

Sinclair declined to disclose its expected start dates for streaming services in the market, but several analysts who spoke to S&P Global Market Intelligence expect a soft launch between June and September. The MLB season kicked off on April 7 this year.

Analysts believe Sinclair aims to use the charter deal to set precedent for the distribution of its recently expanded RSN portfolio ahead of future negotiations with other pay-TV distributors, including DIRECTV and Comcast Corp.

“If the Charter agreement allows streaming into the market, we could see it in June,” said Lee Berke, director of consulting firm LHB Sports Entertainment & Media Inc.

Although Sinclair has never officially identified the five MLB teams for which he has market broadcast rights, those teams are widely believed to be the Milwaukee Brewers, Tampa Bay Rays, Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins and Detroit Tigers.

Charter is the top distributor in Milwaukee, Kansas City and Tampa Bay, according to Kagan data, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence. This made securing a carriage agreement with Charter that included Sinclair’s RSNs essential to ensuring their success, said Kagan analyst Daniel Alkon, who is considering Sinclair’s streaming rollout in July.

For more on other companies’ live sports streaming strategies, click here: Fox Sports Stays On The Sidelines Of Streaming…For Now

Sinclair Scenarios

In the most optimistic scenario in a recent filing, Sinclair’s subsidiary Diamond Sports said that if the planned services launched in April, they could have up to 975,000 streaming subscribers by the end of 2022, generating $237 million in streaming revenue. Those customer bases could grow to 2.98 million and generate $635 million in streaming revenue the following year, according to the filing.

While unlikely to approach those 2022 projections at this point, Sinclair is contractually obligated to launch a service by September as part of a series of deals with the NBA allowing streaming into the marketplace. of 16 professional basketball teams. Sinclair is also expected to bring streaming to market for professional hockey: It has streaming rights to a dozen NHL clubs for the league’s 2022-23 season.

The NBA could seek to cut out the middleman and launch its own streaming services into the market if Sinclair fails to meet certain obligations, Alcon said. Reports indicate that MLB may also be interested in rolling out its own in-market streaming product in 2023 in addition to its out-of-market package, MLB.tv.

Alkon expects Sinclair’s in-market offerings to cost around $20 to $23 per month. Looking at other sports streaming packages, a basic ESPN+ subscription from the Walt Disney Co. costs $6.99 per month. Meanwhile, an out-of-market MLB.tv package for all teams costs $139.99 for the season, or $24.99 per month.

Sinclair’s streaming services are likely to appeal to price-sensitive cord cutters and die-hard sports fans who don’t want to subscribe to larger video packages, Alkon said.

RSN Streaming Dashboard

While Sinclair’s plans remain uncertain, Amazon Prime Video is leading the MLB streaming scorecard by offering free streaming of New York Yankees games to its subscribers who reside in the YES Network market starting April 22. . YES, in which Sinclair has a 20% stake, was also part of the broadcaster’s distribution renewal with Charter.

Amazon owns a 15% stake in YES. In 2021, the company simulcast some contests broadcast on broadcaster WPIX.

Offer Yankees games “could be a retention driver for Prime Video,” said Curt Pires, founder of the sports program management and distribution company CAP Sports.

Pires thinks MLB could choose to partner with Amazon on other broadcast packages or smaller gaming groups in other regional markets, depending on the success of the Yankees’ bid.

Other New York-area sports franchises are also expected to hit streaming platforms soon. Executives at MSG Networks Inc., the RSN home of the NBA’s New York Knicks and the NHL’s New York Rangers and Islanders and New Jersey Devils, said on the company’s latest earnings call that plans are in the works. course to launch a direct-to-consumer offer by the end of the year. The company has been embroiled in a carriage dispute with Comcast which has kept MSG and MSG2 out of the cable company’s systems in the New Jersey Networks footprint since September.

Meanwhile, Comcast’s NBCU has yet to declare its streaming plan for its six-owned RSNs. On Jan. 31, the company said in a statement that a launch would take place in late 2022. It backtracked on that stance the next day, however, saying the staff announcement inadvertently included a reference to DTC’s plans and was misleading.

“We’ll know a lot more over the next four to six months,” Alkon said, adding that other RSN owners are likely waiting to see how Sinclair’s first in-market streaming efforts pan out.

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