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Regional Sports Networks Branch Out to Streaming

The Take

  • Regional sports networks, carrying local major league games to cable networks, are exploring standalone streaming services.
  • Four groups—New England Sports Network, Diamond Sports Group, YES Network, and Madison Square Garden Networks—are leading the charge.
  • Due to rising costs, two regional sports networks, Diamond Sports Group and AT&T SportsNet, are exiting deals with NBA, NHL, and MLB teams.
  • Meanwhile, the sports leagues offer out-of-market games through MLB TV, NFL Sunday Ticket, NBA League Pass, and NHL Center Ice.

The 2023 Major League Baseball season just started, which means it’s time to find your favorite team’s games in time for the first pitch. But this year, four regional sports networks (RSNs) are branching out and offering streaming options for each game. The catch: it’ll cost you.

New England Sports Network (NESN), Diamond Sports Group, YES Network, and Madison Square Garden (MSG) Networks are moving into streaming with prices ranging from $20 to $30 monthly.

However, RSNs streaming games only benefit some. One sports fan wrote on Twitter that streaming just three New York sports teams (Giants football, Knicks basketball, and Yankees baseball) would cost $1,386 annually.  

Meanwhile, the DIRECTV STREAM plan costs under $960 per year for most MLB, MLS, NBA, and NHL regional sports networks. Sure, it’s technically a cable plan, but it reduces the need for multiple streaming sports subscriptions.

Regional sports networks face cable setbacks

RSNs originated back in the 1960s but have faced a reckoning since the mid-2010s when cord-cutters began leaving cable for streaming. Recently, cable companies started dropping RSNs, citing high fees and a smaller customer base.  

In June 2022, NESN became the first RSN to launch a streaming service for consumers with NESN 360. The $30 per month service offers Red Sox and Bruins games. 

As of Opening Day 2023, YES Network started streaming the New York Yankees while MSG Networks explored streaming for the New York Knicks and Rangers later in 2023. (Diamond is working to acquire streaming rights for 14 of the MLB teams it used to broadcast.)

Cord-cutting leads sports leagues to embrace streaming

Does the return to streaming candle bundles mean cord-cutting has gone too far? For sports fans, maybe. But the bigger question is if teams need individual streaming services. 

The MLB already offers MLB TV and MLB Extra Innings for out-of-market MLB games, but that doesn’t help fans in New York City who want to watch the Yankees without shelling out $24.99 per month for YES Network. 

The MLB also struck a deal with Peacock for MLB Sunday Leadoff and with Apple TV+ for Friday Night Baseball. Both streaming services will broadcast live games.

Two other major sports leagues offer streaming services: NBA League Pass and NHL Center Ice. NBA League Pass provides out-of-market games, while NHL Center Ice is 40 live games per week. NFL Sunday Ticket is another out-of-market package, but it’ll only be available through YouTube TV starting this year, while Major League Soccer has MLS Season Pass through Apple TV+.

Watching your favorite teams used to be as easy as tuning to the right channel. But new RSN streaming services are making it harder to watch live games and keep up with the action.

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