The key details are:
- MLB.TV Premium price reduces by $20. Once UK tax is added, it will be $132 and that’s approximately £91 at current conversion rate. This allows you to listen to or watch all 2,430 regular season games live or on-demand, plus Spring Training games (at least 275 to be televised), plus all play-off games (the latter being available to us in the UK, but blacked out to US subscribers).
- A new team-based subscription has been launched that allows you to listen to or watch all of the chosen team’s games at a reduced cost to the MLB-wide subscription. Including UK tax, that’s $102 or £71 at current conversion rate.
The subscription details can be found in full on MLB.com.
The most notable feature of the 2016 subscriptions is the new option to buy a team-based package that solely covers a particular team’s games. This has been added as part of the ‘Garber settlement’, which has come out of a legal case in the States about TV rights and MLB’s ‘blackout’ policy. You’ll notice on the MLB.TV subscription page that there are lots of bits about blackouts as they are now having to be even more explicit as to what U.S. subscribers will and won’t be able to watch when buying a subscription.
The Team subscription will cost $85 in the States. What that amounts to for us depends on the dollar/pound conversion rate at time of purchase, plus the fact that – as of last year – we now have to add tax on top. When you go to buy a subscription, it calculates the tax you’ll be paying once you change the country to ‘GB – United Kingdom’ (yes, that is a confusing heading and you’ll find it near the end of the drop-down list, just above United States).
The Team subscription adds $17 on top in tax for us in the UK, making the Team subscription $102 including tax, which as of time of writing is approximately £71.
The Garber settlement is also the reason why the MLB.TV Premium subscription price has fallen from $130 last year to $110 (the same price as the 2015 MLB.TV Standard service). MLB adds $22 on top for UK tax, making it $132 or approximately £91 including tax right now.
The MLB.TV Premium subscription includes the $20 MLB At Bat app. As in previous years, you’ll be able to download the free version of the app and then tie your MLB.TV subscription to it so that you can watch and listen to games on ‘connected devices’.
The one thing to note about all this is that it appears that the MLB.TV Standard package (i.e. MLB.TV on your PC, laptop or Mac) is no longer being offered. I would guess that the vast majority of subscribers paid the extra in previous seasons to have Premium anyway, but there will probably be some who have been happy to pay a little less and just to hook up a laptop to a TV. MLB seems to have addressed this through the Premium price decrease so previous Standard subscribers won’t have to pay extra.
As stated every year, what package to go for, and the value for money of them, is dependent on your own circumstances and how much you will use the subscription.
What can be said for all is that, aside from the very occasional technical gremlin, you don’t have to worry about the quality of the service you are paying for provided you have a decent broadband connection. MLB really were pioneers when it came to streaming live sport back in 2002 and it’s no surprise that a growing number of organisations, including the NHL, are signing deals with the underlying company, MLB Advanced Media, to capitalise on their expertise.
The games we can watch
The most important ‘value for money’ factor is simply how many games you have the inclination and ability to watch over the course of the year and therefore what use you’ll get from the subscription (I deliberately wrote year rather than season, as the subscriptions include off-season access to all games on-demand, which recent experience shows is a great help through the winter months!).
I round up all of the pre-midnight (UK time) working-day first pitches every Monday during the MLB regular season. This is on the basis that for the majority of people these will be the games that are most convenient to watch alongside the weekend contests as they take place during the British evening rather than in the early hours of the morning.
In the 2015 season, there were on average 10 ‘early’ games every working week, with three or four being shown on BT Sport and one or two being ‘MLB.com Free Games’ (i.e. games you can watch online even without a subscription). This average is based on 25 weeks of baseball and discounts the All-Star break week.
In terms of when you can catch games, over the course of a season the majority of ‘early’ games are on Wednesday or Thursday (69% combined in 2015), with Monday the next busiest day (primarily due to several U.S. national holidays), some on a Friday (the majority being games from Wrigley Field) and a handful on Tuesdays.
So even if you don’t want to sacrifice too much sleep, most weeks you’ll have a decent selection of games to watch live and you can also watch back any game on-demand in any case. Generally there will be a good five or six early games on a Saturday too, with pretty much every game on Sunday being a day-time (evening-time for us) contest other than the ESPN Sunday Night game.
Teams to watch
The Chicago Cubs’ emergence in 2015 as one of the best teams in MLB, with a host of exciting young players, was good news for baseball fans in the UK (apart from those supporting the Cardinals or Pirates, perhaps). They always come top of the ‘early’ game charts every year, and usually by a significant margin, due to the restrictions they are under at Wrigley Field in respect of the number of night game they can play.
Here’s a chart showing how many ‘early’ games every team was scheduled to play in the working week during 2015 (by ‘scheduled’ I mean the pre-midnight starts as of Monday for every week, so they include any rearranged games from earlier in the season, but not those rearranged at short notice, such as a game on Wednesday added due to a rain-out on Tuesday night etc).
The figures from 2015 generally fit the trend of previous seasons. The main exception to this comes in the Rays’ lowly ranking in 2015 as they’ve tended to be in the top ten of most early games played, so that may just be down to unique circumstances last year.
What baseball you plan to watch will go a long in determining whether paying the extra £20 to get the Premium MLB-wide service above a team subscription will be worthwhile.
Where the team-based subscription may be particularly appealing is for people who already pay for BT Sport. The TV coverage provides a decent selection of games to watch throughout the season, including the play-offs, so if the main benefit of MLB.TV is in allowing you to always catch your chosen team when you want without worrying about the TV schedulers picking the game, saving the £20 here might be worth doing.
There is one disclaimer on this: it’s not clear if the team-based subscription will include play-off games if your team makes it that far.
It’s understandable why that wouldn’t be boldly stated in the promotional details as it almost certainly wouldn’t be available to fans in the States, just as the post-season isn’t covered in MLB.TV Premium for them either. So, you might assume that as we in the UK get play-off games included in the Premium service, we would also get them for any play-off games played by our team in the team service.
However, that is just an assumption and unless that’s confirmed anywhere by MLB in the days ahead, be aware that it can’t be guaranteed. I’ll add a note here if that is definitively confirmed one way or the other.
Where you can watch
Both the MLB.TV Premium and Team-based packages allow you to watch games not only directly on a PC, laptop or Mac, but on a ‘connected device’ such as an iPad, Android device, AppleTV and so on. Some of these options are restricted based on territories so it’s worth checking the Connected Devices page on MLB.com for the latest information to check if it will definitely work on your device in the UK.
The comments on last year’s article here about the MLB.TV subscriptions, plus any comments added to this one, will offer some first-hand experience on what works and what doesn’t for us in the U.K. Note that some of the Connected Devices options will work in the regular season, but not during Spring Training.
All the baseball you could ever wish for!
Every year I write this article I have to repeat my comment that it is an absolutely wonderful thing that we have the option to follow MLB in this way nowadays.
Just fifteen years ago for most of us all we could watch was two games a week in the early hours on Channel 5 (although great TV coverage like Baseball on 5 is still much-missed, despite having MLB.TV).
Now we can watch whatever games we like, when we want to. £72 or £92 isn’t loose change, but if you love baseball then it’s a great investment and money well worth spending.