Cablevision, Yankees First With In-Market MLB Live Streaming Rights

imageThe New York Yankees may be able to claim another first: in-market live game streaming. MLBAM and the YES Network have agreed to a streaming rights package that would end the blackout under certain conditions; Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) added the in-market streaming rights as part of its latest carriage renewal with the regional sports net and, according to the Sports Business Journal, plans later this season to be the first operator to offer the service. After a false start last season, the deal also makes MLB the first major league with in-market streaming of live games.

But — and this is a capital “B” — this doesn’t end the “logjam” for local live streaming, as the NYT puts it. It’s the beginning of the end, though, for one of online sports’ thorniest issues: how to stream live in market without cannibalizing multichannel viewership and revenue. The solution appears to be a mix of subscriptions (cable and online) and authentication.

Even if a team holds equity in an RSN, which is the case with YES and the Yankees, each deal has to start with an agreement with MLBAM, the digital arm of Major League Baseball that controls the streaming rights for all teams. The RSNs then can include it as part of their rights packages with various multichannel operators.

In Cablevision’s case, it appears that access would be limited to cable subscribers to extended basic, where YES resides after a lengthy battle between the RSN and the cable operator. But SBJ reports that subscriptions also will be offered via Yankees.com, operated by MLBAM, and YESNetwork.com, operated with MLBAM. It’s not clear whether subscribers to MLB.TV’s full-access package would have to pay extra or would get access as part of their package. Some RSNs would rather offer in-market games only through their own sites but not sure I see MLBAM’s Bob Bowman agreeing stay out of the local subscription biz.

While the issue of authentication, which will be used to verify the right to access a game, inevitably draws comparisons to the Time Warner’s TV Everywhere or other efforts to make online streaming available to pay TV subs, it’s not the same. Those ideas primarily call for online and mobile access as part of the fee a subscriber already pays for that programming, while this is perceived as a new revenue stream requiring a separate subscription. In essence, it looks like subscribers who already have access to the games on TV will have to pay twice for the privilege.

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