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YouTube TV to drop FSN

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MLB falls further behind in the cord-cutting age

Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

YouTube TV dropped this bombshell yesterday morning. The streaming service, which previously carried channels like FOX Sports North and was an option for people within the region to watch the Twins, was unable to reach a new deal with the company that owns the regional FOX sports networks.

MLB has done itself no favors in marketing to millennials and Gen Z fans. While Commissioner Rob Manfred has pushed for pace-of-play changes to shorten games (such as pitch clocks, limiting mound visits, and now the new three-batter rule) and tried to make the game more exciting by juicing the baseball, the lack of awareness he’s shown in how to market the game to a younger crowd is nothing short of astounding. By making changes to the fabric of the game with these new rules and tweaks (not to mention his handling of the Astros situation), Manfred has not only earned the ire of purists, but he’s done nothing to raise interest in younger demographics. He’s completely ignored the real problem.

The real problem? It’s easier to land a space shuttle than to watch your favorite team’s games from home. Similarly, finding highlights on social media within an hour of say, Byron Buxton robbing a home run, is completely impossible.

Instead of following the NBA’s (and their excellent commissioner, Adam Silver’s) lead and making the game more accessible both on social media and on streaming services, MLB has refused to move forward as more and more people move away from cable. It’s nothing short of embarrassing. Want to raise excitement from younger people who spend lots of time on social media? Make it possible for people to view your highlights! The “kids these days” want to see every bat flip, home run robbery, and knee-buckling curveball as it happens. If Karl-Anthony Towns dunks it on somebody in the NBA, I can watch it on Twitter and share it no more than two minutes later. It’s incredible exposure for the league. MLB does not seem to understand this.

Furthermore, the millennial generation is now between ages 26 and 40. As of 2018, one study showed only about 63% of millennials paid for a cable subscription. The rest are dependent on subscription services, and I’d be willing to bet that the 63% is more like 55% in 2020. However, now that YouTube TV has dropped the FOX sports networks, you only have three (legal) options to watch games on a regular basis: Hulu Live, a cable subscription, or MLB.tv. And guess what? If you also want MLB Network (because ESPN is a football channel), Hulu Live is out. If you also live in the same region as your favorite team, MLB.tv is out. Yes, in 2020, you can pay for the MLB’s own streaming service and your favorite team’s games are blacked out locally. So, in summary, it is very difficult for fans to access baseball at home. Furthermore, these millennials are raising kids, which means their kids likely don’t have access either. And nobody foresees these younger generations moving back to cable anytime soon. It’s complete foolishness. “Why don’t young people like baseball?” Because MLB has made the games and highlights more difficult to access than some bank vaults.

So, Commissioner Manfred, get it together. You have to have some marketing analyst telling you this exact same thing. Listen to them. Stop changing the game. Nobody asked for that. Just let the people watch. Give the people what they want.