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MLB takeover has Padres reassuring fans they will get more baseball

More outlets and no blackouts — those are some of the benefits the San Diego Padres are touting now that Major League Baseball (MLB) has taken over production and distribution of Padres games, starting with Wednesday’s game against Miami, which the Padres lost 2-1.

The change came after Diamond Sports, the parent company of Bally Regional Sports Network, failed to make a payment. MLB exercised a clause in their contract which allowed them to oust Bally after a missed payment.

“While we’re disappointed that Diamond Sports Group failed to live up to their contractual agreement with the Club, we are taking this opportunity to reimagine the distribution model, remove blackouts on local games, improve the telecast, and expand the reach of Padres games by more than two million homes,” said Noah Garden, MLB’s chief revenue officer, in a written statement.


The team said it will now reach more than three million homes through the new distribution model, which includes deals with Cox, Spectrum, AT&T U-verse and Fubo-TV, as well as a first for the MLB in streaming.

“The Padres are excited to be the first team to partner with Major League Baseball to offer a direct-to-consumer streaming option through MLB.TV without blackouts, while preserving our in-market distribution through traditional cable and satellite television providers. Our fans will now have unprecedented access to Padres games through both digital and traditional platforms throughout San Diego and beyond,” Padres CEO Erik Greupner said in a written statement.

San Diego State University marketing and media studies professor Miro Copic said the change was a long time coming.

"Major League Baseball has been preparing for this now for at least the last six months, knowing that Bally Sports and some of the other regional sports networks that carry other baseball teams are struggling,” he said.

Diamond Sports is a subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns 185 television stations across the country. Copic said Sinclair loaded up on debt to acquire regional sports networks like Bally, but then, “a lot of people who carried Bally Sports dropped them over the last couple of years. They've lost 22 million subscribers. They've lost $800 million in revenues. That was not part of what they expected to get," said Copic. "So Sinclair is in kind of trouble, and they've been trying to spin off Bally for the last couple of years."


Palomar College media studies professor Serena Reid described the change as "a complete 360 kind of event that almost never happens, especially in television. But, like I tell my students, this is the new golden age of television."

Reid added, "You’ve got so many choices out there to watch so many different things. And MLB was like, ‘Hey, why not do what we do best in this show, baseball games?’"

The end of blackouts is welcome news for Mike Tourtellott, who co-hosts the sports podcast Sons of Montezuma. “I just think the blackout restrictions are silly," he said.

Tourtellott said he's hopeful the MLB will bring quality to the broadcast. But while he wants to believe, he said he has to see proof first.

"I've seen enough stuff in San Diego sports just be like, 'All right, let's just see what happens here,' — it's a 72-hour rule," he said.

Fans will have more than 72 hours to see how the MLB handles streaming, at no extra cost. The MLB.TV stream will be available for free through June 4.

Copic said the sneak peek is the right thing to do to get the community engaged, especially since the Padres are currently next-to-last in the National League West standings.

"When the expectations of the baseball season were so high and they are not living up to them as you're ending the second month of the season, there's always going to be a little pressure,” Copic said. “You don't want to disappoint your fans.”

Not disappointing the fans was also a theme for Tourtellot, especially in terms of who’s announcing the games.

“Don't touch it. Just leave our guys in the booth because those two guys are San Diego, through and through," he said.

Reid recalled watching games on Apple TV with a different announcer team.

”It doesn't sound the same, especially if you're used to watching the teams, watching the team play on TV," she said, noting that the broadcast team is a comfort zone for fans who cannot get to games in-person. "If they are keeping that in place, I think that's a win-win situation.”

The Padres are keeping that in place; their announcers are team employees and will not change under the new deal. But free streaming access to the games will change after June 4. Fans will have to subscribe and pay $19.99 per month or $74.99 for the rest of the season.

Copic warned that cord cutters may already be feeling bilked by having so many streaming services, so signing people up to MLB.TV might be a challenge.

"When people started cutting the cord, they're saying, ‘Hey, I'm gonna cut all this expensive cable or satellite bills,’" said Copic. "All of a sudden, consumers have access to everything now, which is great, but at the same time, if I want to bundle my Padres, I'm gonna still watch Netflix or Amazon Prime or Apple TV. All of a sudden I'm paying as much, if not more than I did when I had cable and that was all part of my cable package."

Tourtellot said he knows at the end of the day, it's all about the bottom line.

"It's a business. The people running the business wanna make money — that's their ultimate goal," he said. "And unfortunately, it's not always the fans who benefit from it."

Reid said she has high hopes. Adapting a line from the movie “A League of Their Own,” she said, "There's no crying on camera in baseball!"