This article is free for anyone to read, but please consider becoming a Patreon subscriber to allow me to keep writing posts like this one. Sign up to receive articles like this one in your inbox here.
Here we go, the final newsletter for 2023. Thanks for reading through what has been a year that involved a lot more stadiums and a lot less labor-specific news than expected. But don’t worry, MLB deciding to mess with workers of one kind or another is a tradition they don’t plan on leaving behind forever.
Earlier this week, it was reported that Diamond Sports Group, which runs the Bally regional sports networks, was seeking a way back to the kind of profit they were hoping for by negotiating a partnership with Amazon. This would allow them to rely less on the shrinking cable market, and by moving onto one of the streaming video platforms with the most subscribers. Amazon Prime Video has 200 million subscribers, with Netflix (247 million) having more, Disney+ behind at 150 million, Paramount Plus at 63 million, Hulu at 48 million, Peacock 28 million, ESPN+ 26 million, Apple TV 25 million. Amazon Prime Video is massive, is the point, with only the original streamer ahead (and also the only one not tied mostly to their own original content). If Diamond is going to partner with anyone in the space, Amazon makes the most sense, especially since they’ve already successfully partnered with the NFL for Thursday Night Football.
I wrote about the possibility of an Amazon/Diamond partnership for Baseball Prospectus, as well as what is likely to end up happening if they can’t make a deal work: MLB slowly getting back its rights due to Diamond either not being able to hold up their end of contracts, or simply not wanting to anymore. That could end up resulting in MLB cutting out the middleman and hosting their own nationwide streaming service that, barring their nationally broadcast TV games, wouldn’t have to be subject to regional blackouts like MLB.tv is right now. So if you lived where the Rangers or whomever played, and wanted to watch them via streaming without having cable, you now could do so without having to go to the park in person, which right now is how you see them if you don’t have cable and live in Dallas-Forth Worth-Arlington.
The important takeaway is that the sense I’m getting, based on the history of these moments where the ways to consume baseball evolve, is that MLB is going to, at the least, be as well off as they are now when things settle, and more than likely better off. There could be some short-term issues during the transitional phases, sure, especially with questions being unanswered in the present — ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez got into some of those problems this week as they relate to this offseason’s free agency — but the long-term outlook of MLB’s broadcasting revenue seems like it’ll be healthy. The cable market is shrinking, and while there are going to be mergers of various streaming services due to larger corporate mergers (like HBO Max and Discovery into simply Max) or certain platforms joining together because people start canceling subscriptions when they realize this all costs them more than cable ever did, Amazon Prime Video seems like it’s in the “here to stay” bucket. Amazon might not understand how every business works — their forays into video games are an example of them not quite getting it — but they do seem to get how to make their video streaming service worthwhile, and have already shown they know how vital sports was to the growth of cable in the first place. Streaming services are going to need the same kind of support from sports leagues, and getting one of the big four on there like this, and not just for a special event game, could be a huge win.
We’ll have to see how things play out, though. MLB might have a preference for retaining all of this themselves so they can go out and maybe join forces with the NHL and NBA on a mega-streaming service for local broadcasting, but even if they don’t get what they want, so long as Diamond can secure the bag on their end, MLB’s teams will get paid.
This newsletter is not coming to an end by any means, but the platform it distributes on, Tinyletter, is. In February, Mailchimp, which owns Tinyletter, is going to shut it down. I could transfer to Mailchimp, but sadly even a modestly sized newsletter like this one would cost money to host there, in addition to the WordPress site hosting I already have the archives at, and that’s not a solution given the low subscriber base. Also I’m mad at Mailchimp for shutting down a perfectly good free option that’s fit a newsletter of this size like a glove for five years now, so, you know. Not exactly excited about the idea of sending them money even if it did make sense to do so.
I’m on the lookout for a replacement platform, of which there are many to choose from these days, but one of the things I’m looking for is making sure there’s no effort on your end to keep receiving the newsletter. So, a platform I can import the subscriber list to, and then say, hello, these are coming from this place now, with no work on your end besides recognizing that (and maybe telling gmail or whatever that you don’t want these sent to your promotions tab or spam or whatever goofy filtering they’ve decided to do for them). Regardless of where this ends up, it’ll all be sorted out before there’s any kind of interruption to publication. Mailchimp, at least, gave a healthy heads up for the closure of Tinyletter, I’ll give them that much.
Visit my Patreon to become a supporter and help me continue to write articles like this one.