The New York Yankees are reportedly looking to partner with e-commerce giant Amazon to become the first Major League Baseball team to offer games to in-market viewers without a cable TV subscription.
According to the New York Post, the Yankees-owned YES Network will allow online streaming for a limited number of games, most likely on Amazon’s Prime Video service, starting as soon as the 2020 season.
In August, the Yankees closed a multi-pronged deal to reacquire a controlling stake in the YES Network, the regional sports network that airs its games in the New York area, in partnership with Amazon, the Sinclair Broadcast Group, RedBird Capital and other investors. Amazon acquired a 15 percent stake in the YES Network and gained the right to increase its investment in the future.
The goal is to offer an annual streaming package at a fixed cost, possibly $99 for a year. However, cable companies which carry YES games, like Spectrum and Optimum, could potentially impede the effort by claiming that they have the right to air all games, including streamed games, under their contracts.
The move follows MLB’s recent decision to allow each of its 30 teams to sell their own streaming deals in local markets ahead of the 2020 season. Prior to that, in-market streaming rights belonged to MLB, which then sold those rights to individual regional sports networks.
Teams must work around their existing deals with RSNs, or wait until they expire. However, the Yankees’ part-ownership of the YES Network makes a deal far easier to arrange.
The initiative, which will expand MLB’s digital footprint, means that baseball fans will be able to see live games without a cable or satellite TV subscription, beyond those streamed on Facebook and YouTube.
It will also boost flagging TV ratings. According to the New York Post, Yankees’ TV ratings declined 17 per cent in 2019 despite the team winning their division, in large part because of cord cutting.