Sunday was the Superbowl and the end of the NFL season.
Monday was ‘Truck Day’.
Tuesday is MLB.TV Day.
The 2018 MLB.TV subscription details have been announced today and the headlines are:
1. The annual MLB.TV subscription price has marginally increased by $3 to $116, with a favourable turn in the dollar/pound exchange rate meaning that we’ll actually be paying a bit less this year compared to 2017.
2. MLB.com will be offering a team-based subscription alongside the main service once again; however there is some doubt over whether that will be available to non-North American subscribers.
Let’s start with the team-based subscription. This was introduced from the start of the 2016 season as one of the consequences of the Garber Settlement in which MLB had to agree to various concessions as part of settling claims around fans being blacked out of local TV in the States.
There were differing experiences for UK fans in that first year with some struggling to sign up and being told by MLB.com support staff that it wasn’t avaliable overseas, yet that confusion appeared to be cleared up last year.
Well, MLB.com is touting their 2018 team-based subscription at $89.99 but when I go to the main MLB.TV page it refreshes and then greys out the team option, replacing it with a ‘Not Available At Your Location’ message.
It seems that as the Garber settlement really only relates to US customers, MLB are taking the stance of forcing everyone else to go for the newly-renamed ‘MLB.TV All Teams’ package. The difference in price between the two isn’t huge in the general scheme of things, but it’s a shame for them to take that approach. For some fans it’s the ability to watch their chosen team that makes them want an MLB.TV subscription, especially if they already have the BT Sports channels so can get their fix of other MLB teams and the post-season that way.
All we can do at the moment is wait and see if they will revise their stance, but right now it looks like the team-based option may not be an option for us after all.
MLB.TV All Teams subscription
The main subscription is still there in its usual form and all its glory. The stated price of $116 goes up to $139.19 when you select ‘GB – United Kingdom’ and they add VAT on top. Putting that into a currency converter brings up the figure of £99.70, so let’s just call it £100 for the year.
The 2017 subscription was $135 inclusive of VAT and that worked out at approximately £108 this time last year, so it’s a welcome little saving for us after a couple of years of seeing the dollar/pound exchange rate going the ‘wrong’ way.
If you want even more baseball, once again MLB.com is offering you the chance to add a Minor League (MiLB) subscription to your basket at the check-out too for $25, half its usual price. Add that on and with VAT it works out at $169.19, or £121.
What you get for your money is succinctly set out on the main MLB.TV webpage, but in short it is every MLB game in the regular season and post-season live or on-demand (we are exempt from the US/Canada blackouts) plus lots of games from Spring Training too. You can watch the home or road TV coverage (where both are available), listen to home or road radio feeds and even combine the two if you prefer to listen to a team’s radio crew whilst watching the action.
MLB At Bat
The MLB At Bat app is worth an explanation as it can catch newcomers out.
There is a free version that you can download onto your usual Apple/Android devices that gives news and video clips and then a paid-for version that costs $20 (usually about £12-13) that allows you to listen to radio coverage of games too. Importantly, the paid-for app itself doesn’t allow you to watch games other than the MLB Free Game (more on that in a moment).
To watch games you need to have bought the MLB.TV subscription, but the key thing is that once you spend the £100 on that you don’t have to pay for the app on top as it is included in the cost. Simply download the free app and then go into the settings to link it to your MLB.com account.
I remember getting ready for the 2008 season by buying a small Asus laptop and excitedly watching some of the Washington Nationals’ game from the brand new Nationals Park (I think it was the exhibition game against the Baltimore Orioles) thinking how wonderful it was to be able to watch baseball on a small device anywhere in the house rather than being tied to my PC.
It really wasn’t all that long ago, but the experience nowadays is completely different. Most of us have tablets and/or smart phones that allow us to watch ‘on the go’ and we also get to watch our online streaming content on our big TVs too.
MLB likes to refer to all this as ‘Connected Devices’ and that basically means devices that you can watch MLB.TV on. It usually means going to the app store (or equivalent) on your chosen device, installing the MLB app and then linking it to your MLB.TV subscription. However, if you’ve got a specific device that you’re hoping to watch MLB.TV on then do consult the full Connected Devices FAQ section on the MLB.TV Help Center.
Unfortunately, sometimes the MLB app is only available in certain territories and so you should check the details to see if the UK is covered. A good (well, good isn’t the right word here) example is that the app is available in the UK on xBox One but isn’t available on PS4. Plenty of people have asked the question as to why over recent years and haven’t found a good answer, although they often have found potential ways around it (I’ll leave you to Google that!).
Working on a budget
Firstly, MLB.com publishes huge amounts of highlights and ‘game recaps’ for free every day, so if you’re not ready to go down the subscription route straight away that doesn’t mean you can’t keep up with all the action.
MLB.com in recent years has had a Free Game feature that has meant that one game every day is available to watch online without a subscription. It’s going to be hit-and-miss with how many of those games involve your team and if they are at a convenient time for us to watch live in the UK, but it at least should give you the chance to catch a game or two every week.
More importantly, MLB.com always does deals during the season offering an MLB.TV at a reduced price. Sometimes this is simply to reflect the stage of the season (e.g. buy it for half-price when there’s half of the season left to go) but last year in particular seemed to offer up some extra deals around holidays such as Mother’s Day. If signing up at the full price is a bit of a stretch on your budget right now, relying on the free games and highlights for a couple of months and then keeping an eye on the deals might be a great way to go.
The TV option
If a dedicated baseball streaming service isn’t for you right now, the TV option for MLB in the UK remains the BT Sport channels.
You get a good number of games every week (8-10 most weeks) alongside other shows such as the MLB Network’s Intentional Talk. The only breaks are a few weeks where College/Little League World Series games take up the baseball quota (to some MLB fans’ annoyance, but I quite like the variety) and when X Games coverage cuts into things a bit.
You just can’t go wrong
Every year I write this column and I try to think of a different way to sum up my views, but there are only so many ways you can say the same thing.
Quite simply, MLB.TV is an absolute dream for baseball fans. It’s an outstanding streaming service, hence why Disney have paid a fortune to buy the technical company, MLBAM, behind it that, other than the very occasional temporary glitch, consistently works extremely well.
As for the content, well it can be summed up as ‘all the baseball’. There’s no compromise needed here, no paying for other channels or box sets that you don’t really want, you are simply paying for all the MLB games. If that sounds like a great thing to you then £100 is likely to seem a fair sum to pay for it compared to the cost of other streaming services you may buy.
If you want to watch occasionally then the annual subscription probably isn’t quite for you; watch some free games and highlights to start the season off and then take advantage of a reduced-price deal in the second half of the season.
However, if you really love baseball then you don’t need telling. MLB.TV is amazing and you will more than get your money’s worth through following your chosen team and dipping in and out of games on an almost daily basis.
If you’ve got any questions, or want to share your experiences of using MLB.TV in the UK, please leave a note in the comments section below. If I don’t know the answer, chances are another baseball fan here will be able to do so.
EDIT 10 Feb: I’ve also added the main Twitter post about this article below, which includes various questions and replies that may be of use.
— Matt Smith (@MattBaseballGB) February 6, 2018