Sorry, baseball fans: These TV networks strike out at online streaming

Hope springs anew for baseball fans on opening day — unless your home team still expects you to sign up for an old-school pay-TV bundle to watch games.

A year after sports networks carrying most of Major League Baseball’s 30 franchises began arriving on online-only video services–allowing people to watch almost every game in a variety of streaming apps as part of a $40-and-change package, well below a traditional channel bundle’s cost–seven of those teams continue to treat online viewing of games as a privilege for distant fans.

Fans closer in to those teams’ ballparks — a distance that MLB can define as hundreds of miles — will have to sign up for a cable or satellite bundle to watch. It’s like watching baseball in 2008, except you pay 2018’s TV rates.

Fading regional blackouts

Historically, seeing baseball games online has been the stuff of long-distance relationships. Baseball’s MLB.tv video service has almost always imposed regional blackouts to protect the regional sports networks that air the local team’s games — and that inflate the bills of cable and satellite TV subscribers.

Because MLB defines home-team regions so broadly, people living in a city with only minor-league ball can find themselves blacked out of multiple major-league franchises. Des Moines fans, for example, get no MLB.tv streaming of games involving the Chicago Cubs or White Sox, the Milwaukee Brewers, the Minnesota Twins or the St. Louis Cardinals.</span></p><p class

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