Local broadcasters are crucial for MLB. Now many are in trouble (2023)

Tucker Carlson didn’t stand a chance. In the battle for eyeballs in St Louis, the Fox News provocateur could never own primetime like Albert Pujols.

St Louis Cardinals games during the beloved slugger’s farewell season last summer were watched by more than four times as many viewers in the MLB team’s home city as the next-most popular cable show, Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News.

That points to the enduring popularity of local broadcasts in baseball hotbeds – but with the new MLB season only a few days old there is off-field turmoil sparked by the bankruptcy of America’s leading regional sports network.

The product may well be more attractive this year thanks to the rules tweaks, but how many armchair fans will be watching? Broadcasting baseball is becoming more complex and contentious as the television industry is buffeted by turbulence in the streaming and cord-cutting era. The way viewers consume sports is changing, disrupting a business model that for decades turbocharged team revenues and player salaries.

Diamond Sports, which runs 19 regional networks under the Bally Sports brand, filed for bankruptcy in March, threatening the live game broadcasts of 42 major league teams – 14 from MLB, including the Cardinals, 16 from the NBA and 12 in the NHL – as well as $2bn in combined annual rights fees, about half of which goes to baseball.

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What’s more, Warner Bros Discovery has been seeking to exit the regional sports network (RSN) arena and shut down its AT&T SportsNet channels, affecting seven teams, including the World Series champion Houston Astros.

The NBA and NHL regular seasons are about to end so they are less impacted and have plenty of time to work out a solution before the next campaign. And local deals are less critical to the bottom line in the NBA. Its $24bn national rights deals are up after the 2024-25 season and few analysts would be surprised if the league doubles its money next time.

While local rights represent about 15% of income for the NHL and NBA, MLB relies on local media for nearly a quarter of team revenues and its 162-game regular season make it a cornerstone for sports channels who can bank on the league for hours of live action nearly every day.

Typically, leagues manage national broadcast rights while franchises make deals for their regional markets. RSNs have long been viewed as desirable entities that can attract viewers to cable operators such as Xfinity and Spectrum, so they command high carriage fees – in excess of $7 a month per subscriber for the most-watched, the New York Yankees’ YES Network – which are passed on to customers in their monthly bills regardless of whether they can tell Mike Trout from a rainbow trout.

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Being subsidised by 100% of cable subscribers even if only 2% of them watched the channel was a lucrative strategy for RSNs and teams alike, especially in big cities. But rising costs are a problem for traditional pay-TV companies as price-conscious customers leave in droves and expect more control over what they buy. In one common analogy, content consumption is moving from a set menu to à la carte – non-baseball fans reasonably don’t want to pay for games they don’t even watch. In 2021 the Dish TV president described the RSN model as “fundamentally broken” and Dish dropped all its RSNs.

That loss of leverage is quite a shift from 2000, when the Texas Rangers credited a local television pact with giving them the financial muscle to hand Alex Rodriguez a then-record contract worth $252m over 10 years. The ground has even budged dramatically since 2013, when the Los Angeles Dodgers signed a local deal worth $8bn over 25 years. A staggering sum – especially when you consider that for six years, only about half the households in Southern California were able to access the channel.

Diamond missed a $31m payment to the Arizona Diamondbacks in mid-March, Sportico reported – about half the team’s annual RSN income. Since the decades-long RSN bonanza boosted player salaries, it is fair to wonder if the on-field product will be affected if revenues decline. After the 2013 deal the Dodgers have boasted MLB’s highest opening-day payroll most years and have reached the playoffs every season.

But Diamond’s interest payments to creditors are a bigger problem than any declining interest from viewers. When Diamond was formed in 2019 as a subsidiary of the giant Sinclair Broadcast Group, it borrowed about $9bn to pay for networks previously owned by 21st Century Fox and Disney. That debt load proved to be too heavy, though for now at least it continues to air games.

Across the country, according to MLB, on the average regular season day, 2.3m fans watch baseball games on an RSN. Live sports remain prized by broadcasters since the audiences are declining more slowly than for other types of content. And there is more competition to drive up national rights at auctions, with tech companies such as Apple and Amazon potentially bidding against traditional networks.

In 2022 MLB hit a new record of nearly $11bn in revenue across its 30 teams, thanks, as Forbes notes, to sponsorship and media deals. In-game betting is a likely growth sector and fresh way to monetise broadcasts as states slowly loosen their gambling laws. (Bally, after all, is a casino and online betting operator.)

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According to Statista, in 2013 100.5m households in the US (out of a total of 122.5m) subscribed to traditional pay TV services, such as cable or satellite. By 2022, although the number of American households rose to 131.2m as the population grew, subscribers sank to 65.1m and are projected to fall to 47.8m in 2027.

“The old model was practically ideal for rights holders,” says John Kosner, a sports and digital media consultant and former ESPN executive. “It’s impossible right now to reach all sports fans, especially young ones, through traditional channels. Even if the RSNs sustain in a form that looks like it does today, you’re still not reaching a big chunk of your younger fanbase that way so that’s an additional concern for clubs.”

With a fanbase that skews relatively old, MLB needs to cater to an audience that is comfortable with the traditional subscription model while also appealing to younger viewers who have never known a time without smartphones and streaming and will probably never become cable or satellite TV customers.

Despite its fusty image the league is a pioneer in digital streaming. It launched MLB.TV, an out-of-market streaming service, back in 2002. But plenty of games on the platform are blacked out to preserve exclusivity for RSNs and national broadcasters.

A future template may resemble the new $2.5bn, 10-year deal Major League Soccer struck with Apple: regional broadcasts were axed in favour of a centralised streaming subscription service that makes every game available everywhere to everyone. A few matches are also shown on Fox Sports, giving MLS a degree of visibility to casual fans who can’t or won’t pay $14.99 a month for the Apple offering.

Sports media executives are keeping a close eye on how MLS Season Pass works out. It’s a simple, modern and streamlined approach and perhaps one that appeals to other leagues; MLB appears interested in taking control of local rights. But it’s not so easy to implement. Baseball is a far more valuable local property than soccer; RSN deals expire at different times and some remain profitable; the big clubs may insist on controlling their own content and squabble over revenue sharing; and it’s uncertain how the Diamond drama will play out.

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So the end of RSNs is likely to be gradual and city-by-city, rather than swift and sweeping, as teams, leagues and media companies pursue whatever strategy they feel is most profitable. “The revenue is a linchpin to how the clubs operate, player salaries etc. There’s a difference between what one might like to do and what you feel you have to do in order to manage these leagues,” Kosner says.

The RSN-owning Yankees and Boston Red Sox have introduced direct-to-consumer subscription streaming services (priced around $20-30 a month). Rivals will be taking a keen interest in how many fans sign up and how on-field results affect subscriptions.

Who would want to be the Astros executive who decides the team can’t afford to re-sign José Altuve in 2025, for example, because the franchise that had a $73m-a-year rights deal moved its games to a streaming service that didn’t attract many customers? Or could the Astros spend whatever it takes to keep their star second baseman out of fear that his departure would prompt an exodus of month-to-month subscribers?

As Sports Media Watch details, some struggling teams, such as the Rangers, Oakland Athletics and Miami Marlins, benefit from RSN deals that look wildly generous given their modest viewing figures. They’d face huge cuts in revenue if forced to depend on streaming services where there’s a tighter relationship between level of income and size of fanbase.

In the short-to-medium term, it’s realistic to expect that RSNs and streaming services will air the same games, similar to how the same blockbuster films can be found in a variety of places, from old-school cable TV to Amazon Prime, at different price points.

“The ratings are quite good for regional sports networks compared to some TV. Certainly baseball has a strong regional sports audience so I think there’s no way that’s going away,” says Jon Lewis, founder of Sports Media Watch. “Maybe there is a centralised place where you can watch games out-of-market and in-market for the same price, at the same time those games are available over the air.”

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Ultimately, the bubble is altering shape but is unlikely to burst. Forbes estimates that last year’s revenue growth means the average MLB team value is up 12% in 2023 to $2.32bn despite the RSN worries. In February the NBA’s mid-sized Phoenix Suns were sold (together with the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA) for $4bn – by far the largest price in NBA history. Clearly, billionaires believe that major league teams remain shrewd investments.

“These franchises are like beachfront property. There are many, many wealthy people, there’s a limited number of the franchises so I believe that’s one big factor driving the appeal and the valuations,” Kosner says. “And second, I believe that the people in sports think that ultimately this is going to be figured out and that there are going to be new, profitable growth strategies at play because of the power of sports in its community, its differentiation from other forms of entertainment.”

Lewis agrees. “Look at the franchise values, they continue to rise,” he says. “Teams will always find a way to make more money.”


Does the MLB Network use local announcers? ›

Other night games: MLB Network airs games on every night, simulcast from one team's local TV broadcaster.

Why won t my MLB.TV work? ›

If you are having issues accessing your stream, please verify your username and password on MLB.com. Then log out and log back into your device in the "Settings" menu of the MLB app.

Why is my MLB.TV blurry? ›

If you are watching an MLB.TV game and can see that the video is playing, however the image is jumbled and unclear, blurring the colors of the video, or if you are seeing a Flash error, you may need to adjust your Hardware Acceleration.

How much does MLB.TV cost? ›

$149.99. Stream EVERY out-of-market game LIVE or on demand. Plus, access to MiLB, MLB Big Inning, and local Pregame and Postgame shows (where available). Buy for the season.

How much do local MLB announcers make? ›

How much does a Baseball Announcer make in the United States? The salary range for a Baseball Announcer job is from $42,154 to $64,307 per year in the United States. Click on the filter to check out Baseball Announcer job salaries by hourly, weekly, biweekly, semimonthly, monthly, and yearly.

How much do local MLB broadcasters make? ›

How Much Do Baseball Announcers Make A Year. According to Payscale.com, the median salary for a baseball announcer is $60,000 per year. However, salaries can range from $30,000 to $120,000 per year, depending on experience, location, and the size of the market.

Why is MLB.TV always blacked out? ›

Due to certain Major League Baseball exclusivities, select regular season, special event, and Postseason games are unavailable on MLB.TV domestically and internationally.

Why does MLB.TV buffer so much? ›

Stuttering and buffering on streams is normally due to insufficient bandwidth. Please see the Recommended Bandwidth FAQ page here (quality is based on the connection rate). If the bandwidth is fine, exit the game and re-launch it. If that does not help, exit and then re-launch the MLB app.

How do I get rid of the fuzzy screen on my TV? ›

How to Fix a Blurry TV
  1. Make sure your picture isn't stretched. Play with the settings of your TV to ensure that the picture you're seeing isn't being stretched. ...
  2. Mess with your TV's different sharpness and picture modes. ...
  3. Reduce the noise. ...
  4. Swap out your cables. ...
  5. Unplug. ...
  6. Move it around.
Nov 3, 2022

What resolution does MLB.TV broadcast in? ›

ServiceFull-season priceVideo
MLB.TV All Teams$149.99/yr.720p, 1080p
MLB EXTRA INNINGS$149.99/yr.1080p, 4K*

What quality is MLB.TV streaming? ›

For MLB.TV on Smart TV's, a high speed broadband Internet connection with 3000 Kbps dedicated bandwidth is required to stream MLB.TV content in HD. For 60 FPS HD streams, we recommend 5000 Kbps.

How much will MLB.TV cost in 2023? ›

How much does MLB.TV cost? A year-long subscription to MLB.TV costs $149.99 for the 2023 season.

Is MLB.TV free with Amazon Prime membership? ›

However, MLB.TV is not free with Amazon Prime Video. An active Amazon Prime membership is necessary to have access to the MLB.TV subscription channel. MLB.TV provides live access to MLB matches. It costs $24.99/month or a yearly plan of $149.99.

Is MLB.TV cheaper through Amazon Prime? ›

As Amazon Prime members in the U.S., viewers can subscribe to MLB.TV for $24.99/month, or if they prefer, a yearly plan of $149.99.

What is the salary of a MLB umpire? ›

For the 2022 season, the average salary for an MLB umpire was $235,000. MLB empires start out at $2,000-$2,300 per month but slowly increase that amount with growing expertise. The number may seem astronomically high, but there are a few reasons why MLB umpires make so much.

Do baseball TV announcers travel with team? ›

The answer is that they do travel, but not as much as you might think. For example, during the regular season, most announcers will travel with their team to every away game. However, they will often stay in a hotel near the stadium, rather than with the team.

How much does a receptionist get paid in the MLB? ›

At MLB (Major League Baseball), the highest paid job is a Sales Manager at $129,562 annually and the lowest is a Receptionist at $35,467 annually. Average MLB (Major League Baseball) salaries by department include: HR at $98,658, Sales at $115,973, Customer Support at $69,520, and Operations at $79,692.

How much do local play-by-play announcers make? ›

The national average salary for a Play-by-play Announcer is $51,289 per year in United States. Filter by location to see a Play-by-play Announcer salaries in your area. Salaries estimates are based on 1 salaries submitted anonymously to Glassdoor by a Play-by-play Announcer employees.

Is there a demand for sports broadcasters? ›

The U.S. Department of Labor's predicts that employment for sports announcers will decline by 5 percent through 2028. Few new radio and television stations are expected to enter the market, and most job openings will come as sportscasters leave the market to retire, relocate, or enter other professions.

How much do local TV announcers make? ›

Avg Salary

News anchors earn an average yearly salary of $66,880. Wages typically start from $27,370 and go up to $200,180.

Will MLB ever get rid of blackouts? ›

According to the Associated Press, it owes nearly $1 billion in rights fees to teams in the first quarter of 2023. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred teased a potential ending to local blackouts for fans of 14 teams if Diamond Sports cannot maintain its broadcast rights.

How can I watch local MLB games that are blacked out? ›

Unlocator allows you to bypass the MLB blackout restrictions by simply changing to its DNS. All you have to do is create an Unlocator account and then change the DNS on your device according to the setup guides. Once done, you can watch any game from MLB regardless of when and where the team is playing.

How can I watch every MLB game without blackouts? ›

Watch 2023 MLB games without blackouts

The easiest way to watch every MLB game is with an MLB.TV subscription. MLB.TV is available globally, and ExpressVPN works seamlessly with MLB.TV to ensure you can stream the action privately and securely.

Is MLB.TV viewership declining? ›

Even the World Series, the final championship series of the MLB, received an average viewership of 11.8 million viewers in 2022 which was down more than 50% in comparison to 2016 in which there was an average of 23.4 viewers that year (Gough, 2022).

Why is MLB using streaming services? ›

Noah Garden, chief revenue officer for Major League Baseball, said in an interview that the league decided to push deeper into streaming this season, in part, to be less vulnerable in the years ahead to cable-TV blackouts.

Why do local channels buffer so much? ›

Two common reasons for buffering are 1) your internet connection is too slow to stream a video in real time, and 2) the speed at which your router sends the video to all your internet-connected devices is too slow.

Why does cable look bad on 4K TV? ›

Cable TV doesn't have a 4k resolution. So the signal has to be upscaled to be shown full screen on a 4k tv.

Why is my 65 inch TV blurry? ›

Your TV may look blurry because you might be using an incorrect aspect ratio, a lower resolution setting, a smaller bitrate setting, a sharpness setting that's too low, using an older HDMI cable that isn't high speed, a blur reduction/motion setting that should or shouldn't be toggled on, or the possibility that the ...

Why does my 1080p TV look better than my 4K? ›

If you sit too far away, the picture on a 4K TV will look just like the picture on a 1080p TV because all the added detail in the 4K picture can't be seen. This is a problem because the optimal distances for viewing a 4K picture are closer than many people sit when they watch TV.

Will sports ever be broadcast in 4K? ›

For now, 4K HDR sports delivery will be limited to huge events. Super Bowl LVII will be available in 4K HDR through several providers, and you can even get it in 4K Dolby Vision from Comcast Xfinity.

What is the highest resolution broadcast TV? ›

Two resolutions are defined as UHDTV: UHDTV-1 is 3840 pixels wide by 2160 pixels tall (8.3 megapixels), which is four times as many pixels as the 1920 × 1080 (2.07 megapixels) of current 1080p HDTV (full HDTV). Also known as 2160p, and 4K UHD.

How many TV cameras are in a MLB game? ›

Equipment: Eight cameras: One at first and third base each, one at home plate (a low home angle is added), one each in right field, center field and left field, and one in each dugout.

What is the best channel to watch baseball? ›

ESPN: The channel airs nationally televised baseball games throughout the season and includes TV events such as the popular “Sunday Night Baseball” broadcast. MLB Network: Major League Baseball's own channel is a great source for MLB news, analysis, and highlights — and it has some live games available, too.

What are the best channels to watch MLB? ›

These same channels will also broadcast the entire MLB Postseason.
  • FOX.
  • FS1.
  • TBS.
  • MLB Network.
Mar 29, 2023

Does MLB.TV stream in 4K? ›

The package will also entitle you to watch spring training games without blackouts, and full-game archives of every 2021 regular season game via on demand. However, it will not allow you to watch the games in 4K.

Can you get MLB.TV for one team? ›

Yes, you can get MLB.TV for one team. You can also get MLB.TV for multiple teams. MLB.TV is a service that allows you to watch live out-of-market Major League Baseball games. You can watch live games in the United States only if you have a Pay TV subscription and authenticate.

Does MLB.TV give you every game? ›

What is MLB.TV? MLB.TV is a streaming service that gets you out-of-market baseball games. You can also watch 250+ Spring Season training games live. And you can access every regular and postseason game from the previous season during the off-season.

Can I watch baseball on Roku? ›

To watch MLB.TV games on Roku®, you must first be an MLB.TV free subscriber, MLB Yearly, Monthly, or Single Team subscriber. To purchase a subscription to MLB.TV, please click here or scroll to the top of this page. Download the MLB App from the Roku® Channel Store.

Can two people watch MLB.TV at the same time? ›

To access Multi-view, first launch a game from https://www.mlb.com/live-stream-games/. Once a game has been launched, click "Games" above the game video. On the right of the calendar of games, you will see the 4 different viewing options. The viewing options are Single, Dual, Thumbnail and Quad.

How can I watch MLB Network for free? ›

You can access the live stream through the MLB app, MLB.TV, and MLBnetwork.com. If you have additional questions, MLB's website recommends that you call their customer service at 866-800-1275.

What is out-of-market MLB games? ›

In North America, an out-of-market sports package is a form of subscription television that broadcasts sporting events to areas where the events were unable to be seen by viewers on other broadcast and cable television networks due to the games not being broadcast in their local market.

What streaming service is the MLB on in 2023? ›

Yearly MLB.TV subscriptions for 2023 are available for $149.99 for the full season, or $24.99 per month. Single-team packages are available for $129.99 for the season.

Who is the voice of MLB Network? ›

Bob Costas. Twenty-eight-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame award-winning broadcaster Bob Costas is a host and announcer for MLB Network. Costas serves as a play-by-play announcer for the MLB Network Showcase series and contributes to MLB Network's studio programming and special event coverage throughout the year.

Who announces on MLB Network? ›

MLB Network announces that Ryan Dempster and Siera Santos will join Kevin Millar as the new co-hosts of Intentional Talk. The new-look program will air weekdays live at 5 p.m. ET, with the debut show set for Friday, March 31, the day after the 2023 regular season begins.

Who is talking on MLB Network? ›

It's MLB Network's longest-running talk show that provides a unique spin on baseball! Join former World Series champions Kevin Millar and Ryan Dempster alongside Siera Santos for a blend of analysis, humor and entertaining interviews to the game we love. Have something to say?

Who are the announcers on the MLB channel? ›

Hosts and reporters
  • Greg Amsinger: (2009–present) MLB Tonight and MLB Productions' Player Poll.
  • AJ Andrews: (2022–present) Play Ball.
  • Bob Costas: (2009–present) MLB Tonight, Studio 42 with Bob Costas, and MLB Network Showcase.
  • Ariel Epstein: (2022–present) Pregame Spread.

How much do MLB Network analysts make? ›

MLB Network's Financial Analyst compensation is $3,813 more than the US average for a Financial Analyst. Financial Analyst salaries at MLB Network can range from $30,000 - $162,000.

Who has the most iconic voice in baseball? ›

Vin Scully was unquestionably the greatest baseball broadcaster of all time. Vin was the voice of the Dodgers in Brooklyn and in Los Angeles for 67 years, sure. But he was the voice of baseball.

Why did Alexa Datt leave MLB Network? ›

Alexa Datt is leaving the Big Apple for the Gateway to the West. Bally Sports Midwest, home of the St. Louis Cardinals and Blues, announced Tuesday the 36-year-old Maryland native is joining its team as a reporter. “So grateful for this opportunity & excited to get started!” she tweeted, waving hello to St.

Do MLB announcers work for the team? ›

Do Mlb Announcers Travel With The Team? As an example, ancaster who does the play-by-play for a game would take the team on the road and call the games. They may work for a non-announcing company during the off-season as well as perform the same duties with other sports.

Who calls MLB games on Fox? ›

As of 2023, Fox's lead play-by-play commentator is Joe Davis, a role that was previously held by Joe Buck since Fox inaugurated its Major League Baseball coverage in 1996.

Who has MLB.TV rights? ›

United States
  • ABC: 1948–1950; 1953–1954; 1960–1961; 1965; 1976–1989; 2020–present.
  • The Baseball Network (a joint venture between Major League Baseball, ABC and NBC): 1994–1995.
  • CBS: 1947–1951; 1955–1965; 1990–1993.
  • DuMont 1947–1950.
  • Fox: 1996–present. ...
  • NBC: 1947–1989; 1996–2000; 2022–present (One game only)

Who is the female anchor on MLB Network? ›

Lauren Shehadi (@laurenshehadi) • Instagram photos and videos.

Who are the new MLB announcers for 2023? ›

The network's premier talent lineup is led by renowned play-by-play announcer Adrian Garcia Marquez and former MLB infielder and Mexico National Team manager Edgar Gonzalez. Also joining are announcer/reporter Carlos Alvarez and analyst Jaime Motta.

Who is the oldest MLB broadcaster? ›

Bob Uecker
Home runs14
Runs batted in74
As player Milwaukee Braves (1962–1963) St. Louis Cardinals (1964–1965) Philadelphia Phillies (1966–1967) Atlanta Braves (1967) As broadcaster Milwaukee Brewers (1971–present)
14 more rows

Where do MLB announcers sit? ›

It is typically located in the section of the stadium holding the luxury box and can be either enclosed or open to the elements. In general, newspaper writers sit in this box and write about the on-field event as it unfolds. Television and radio announcers broadcast from the press box as well.


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