On Wednesday, NESN became the first regional sports network in the US to offer a direct-to-consumer streaming service.
NESN 360 gives subscribers the option to stream each Boston Red Sox and Boston Bruins game of the season.
NESN will offer the first month of the service for the promotional price of $1 followed by a $29.99 monthly fee. An annual subscription costs $329.99 and comes with eight tickets to any Red Sox game this season.
Because MLB owns out-of-market streaming rights for MLB TV, only streamers in the New England area will have the option to purchase NESN 360. Not great for the bandwagon, huh?
The idea behind the service is to capitalize on cord-cutters who have not had the option to subscribe to their local RSN since canceling cable. Regional sports, particularly MLB, remain incredibly popular in markets across the country. And given the inventory of the long MLB season, subscribers could perhaps justify a $30 per month bill to their wives.
On the other hand, streaming is no longer the cost-effective option that it was during the cord-cutting surge.
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NESN 360 makes sense if you only watch the Red Sox and Bruins, and maybe some of you New Englanders only do. Yet for most streamers, NESN 360 would join a subscription budget that includes some combination of Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Peacock, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+, ESPN+ and Paramount+.
Once you add up the monthly cost of four to five streamers and add $30 to the spreadsheet, you are right back to, or above, the price of cable.
For reference, NESN costs $5.14 a month as an add-on for Comcast cable subscribers. If you are a sports fan, cable remains a better option than streaming.
The other concern is that MLB viewers skew older. 60+-year-old baseball fans are still trying to figure out what an AppleTV+ is on Fridays and what it means that a Peacock streams MLB each Sunday morning.
These old guys just want to watch baseball with their clickers.
NESN 360 is a smart idea but no party enters the crowded Streaming Wars without struggles. Other passionate sports markets — like New York, Detroit and Chicago — ought to watch closely before joining the fray.