Cable subscribers in the St. Louis area will have more viewing options when watching the Cardinals next season. MLB announced yesterday that it had struck a deal with Fox allowing the 15 regional sports networks owned by Fox to stream games locally beginning next season. Fox Sports Midwest airs the Cardinals games in St. Louis and are a part of this deal.
Fans will be able to watch games on their phone or tablet of choice, allowing fans to watch games even if they are not near a television. Previously, the only way to watch games on mobile devices was through purchasing MLB.tv, but Cardinals games are blacked out on MLB.tv for those within the Cardinals viewing area. Fox Sports Midwest was not previously allowed to broadcast the games to mobile devices. Fans will be able to watch games on their mobile devices through Fox's app, like Fox Sports Go, but only after they have been authenticated as a cable subscriber.
This deal will only affect those who are cable subscribers. It is a small step in the right direction, but does little for those who do not wish to pay for a large cable package. Earlier this year, the Cardinals reached a contract extension with Fox Sports Midwest on a 15-year deal worth in excess of one billion dollars that begins in 2018, and streaming rights were an important part of that deal. It was important to the Cardinals that fans be able to view their games should the cable landscape change. The new deal between MLB and Fox is some recognition that the landscape has changed, although this recognition has been a long time coming given MLB.tv's prominence over the last decade.
Cardinals Chairman Bill Dewitt, Jr. actually predicted the in-market streaming deal when the extension with Fox Sports Midwest was announced in August.
I feel confident that sooner rather than later there will be in-market streaming - meaning if you have cable in your house in Cardinals territory and you have a tablet that you can watch that game on that tablet. Right now, you can watch all the other teams but not your team, just to protect the rights.
Sooner indeed, as MLB's deal with Fox was announced less than four months after Dewitt's interview with Derrick Goold above. If you are a cable subscriber in St. Louis, this announcement is good news. The Cardinals will be much easier to watch next season. If you are a fan in St. Louis who has already cut the cable cord, or you live outside of St. Louis, this new deal is unlikely to have any affect on your ability to watch the games.
Technology is moving forward and MLB has been at the forefront of that movement, especially when it comes to watching games digitally. Most of the benefits so far have gone to out-of-market viewers. The new deal will pass along some of those benefits to Cardinals fans in St. Louis, as long as you are willing to pay for it.