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MLB TV Review: Subscribers May Balk at Increased Blackout Restrictions

The streaming service is stellar for some fans who live outside of their team's TV market, but with Apple TV Plus and Peacock playing ball in 2022, MLB TV subscribers will encounter more blacked-out games than ever.

For out-of-market baseball fans, MLB.TV is the only game in town to follow your favorite team night in and night out. As a Cincinnati Reds fan living in New England, I'd be able to watch only a handful of Reds games during the season -- on the rare occasion when my small-market team makes an appearance on national television -- were it not for MLB.TV. With the service, I'm able to watch nearly every one of the Reds' 162 games from April to October, along with other out-of-market games every day of baseball's regular season.

Like

  • Wide device support
  • Easy access to in-game stats
  • Choose your own audio feed Smooth streaming

Don't Like

  • Blackout restrictions can be frustrating
  • Inconsistent experience across devices

At $140 for the year, MLB.TV is too pricey for casual fans but certainly worth it for serious baseball geeks who live outside their team's home market. And that's the catch. For fans of the local team -- say, a Red Sox fan living in New England, a Dodgers fan in LA -- subscribing to MLB.TV makes little sense. That's because your local team's games are blacked out on MLB.TV, which means you'd be better served with cable or a live TV streaming service, like AT&T TV, Fubo or YouTube TV, that includes the regional sports network (RSN) that carries the games. 

Read more: MLB baseball streaming 2022: Watch your team's games this season, no cable required

Not only are your local team's games unavailable on MLB.TV, but nationally televised games also fall prey to blackout restrictions. And there are a lot of national MLB telecasts. In addition to games on ESPN, Fox, FS1, MLB Network and TBS, streaming services Apple TV PlusPeacockYouTube all carry MLB games nationally in 2022 -- and all are blacked out on MLB.TV. 

I find it terribly disappointing when I attempt to tune into a game on MLB TV and I'm greeted with the blackout notice. It's even worse for fans of the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs and other big-market teams that are on national TV seemingly every week and, thus, constantly blacked out on MLB.TV. Before you subscribe, be sure to peep your team's national broadcast schedule so you don't find yourself singing the blackout restriction blues before the ivy turns green at Wrigley.

If you're an out-of-market baseball fan willing to put up with the blackout restrictions, however, you'll find plenty to like about MLB.TV. The live game streams are steady and smooth with few dropouts in my experience. They feature informative, easy-to-access stat overlays that enhance the viewing experience. From iPhones and tablets to PCs and TVs, there's broad hardware support so you can tune into games no matter where you are. And you can listen to radio broadcasts with MLB.TV, which I'd say would be useless for every sport other than baseball.

In short, MLB.TV makes it possible and enjoyable to follow your favorite baseball team when you live far away from it. Being able to watch games live almost every day of the six-month season and hear your team's announcers, the home crowd and even local ads connects you to your team. With a variety of supported devices and access to both TV and radio broadcasts, MLB.TV meets you wherever you are and makes it easy to be a baseball fan all summer long.

Editors' note: Aside from the $10 price hike for the annual plans, MLB.TV is largely unchanged from last year. What follows is our review of Major League Baseball's streaming service from last year, with updates to reflect the potential for even more blackout restrictions this season, the expansion of pre- and post-game coverage to more teams, the expanded schedule for the whip-around Big Inning show and the availability of featured minor league games.

MLB.TV subscription options and extras

There are three ways to subscribe to MLB.TV:

  • Pay $140 to be able to watch out-of-market games live or on-demand. You can watch replays of your local team's games, but there's a 90-minute delay from the final out before the archived stream is available. Archived games are available sooner for out-of-market teams.
  • Pay $120 to be able to watch a single, out-of-market team live or on-demand. If you're only interested in watching your favorite team play, then this plan can save you a few bucks. You sacrifice, however, the ability to switch over to a potential no-hitter in progress elsewhere or any other exciting matchup or moment that does not involve your team. I spend 95% of the time watching Reds games, but I still pay the extra $20 for the full package because FOMO is a real thing.
  • Pay $25 per month to be able to watch out-of-market games live or on-demand. This is a good option if you have doubts about your team contending this year and can see your attention waning along with your team's chances by midseason. 
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You can pay by the month or for the full season.

Sarah Tew/CNET

With MLB.TV, you can also listen to home and away radio broadcasts. And baseball is one of the few sports, if not the only, that's enjoyable to listen to on the radio. And some rare good news for the in-market fan: MLB.TV's radio broadcasts aren't subject to the blackout rule, so you can listen to your local team's games live. 

MLB.TV also includes a ton of video content, including classic games, baseball documentaries and old This Week in Baseball episodes. A new, whip-around show called Big Inning made its debut for MLB.TV subscribers last year and has been expanded from weeknights to seven days a week this year. Big Inning offers live look-ins across all the games in action as well as highlights as they happen. It feels similar to the NFL's RedZone channel that jumps around the league's game on Sunday afternoons.

New for the 2022 season are featured minor league games. Serious fans of minor league baseball can subscribe to the separate MiLB.TV (note the "i") service, but some minor league games will be streamed on MLB.TV this season as part of your subscription. You'll find the minor league games on the Featured section of the app where you'll also find highlight packages and shows. After watching my Reds limp to a brutal start to the 2022 season, I might save myself a night of big-league torture and watch an occasional minor league game when one of Cincinnati's minor league affiliates is playing. It'll save me from watching another Reds loss and give me a glimpse into the future to see which prospects might be able to help the big-league club in a next year or two.

MLB.TV is also expanding pre- and post-game coverage this year. Fans of 13 clubs were able to watch pre- and post-game coverage of their team by the end of last season, and more clubs will be added this year. As with the games themselves, the pre- and post-game coverage will be available only to out-of-market viewers.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Two types of blackouts

MLB.TV lets you watch every game of the regular season that's A, outside of your local TV market and B, not on national TV. As a resident of New England, for example, I cannot watch Boston Red Sox games live on MLB.TV. Since the team I follow is a small market team that has not had much success in recent years, it is not picked for national broadcasts with any great frequency. As a result, I rarely encounter a Reds game blacked out on MLB.TV. 

I'd imagine the blackout restriction is much more frustrating to fans of successful, big-market teams, since their teams are shown regularly on ESPN and other national broadcasts. And the blackout restrictions will be even more frequent this year with more streaming services adding exclusive, live baseball, including Friday night doubleheaders on Apple TV Plus and Sunday morning games on Peacock. With so many streaming services offering snippets of the season, it feels like it's more difficult than it should be to watch your team's games night in and night out. Were it not for MLB.TV, however, I would need to subsist all summer long on box scores, highlights and the rare Reds national broadcast to follow my team.

Watch (and listen) on just about any device

No matter how big a fan I am or how much I enjoy streaming games on MLB.TV, I have neither the time nor the inclination to watch nine innings of baseball every night. My favorite part about MLB.TV is its wide device support that lets me catch parts of a game while I go about my day and evening. 

I watch a few innings on the iPad in the kitchen while making dinner and a few more innings after dinner on my laptop when my son is playing on my iPad. And perhaps the last few outs on the big screen via my Apple TV. And when I can't watch, I listen to the Reds' radio call on my phone when I take the dog out for her evening stroll or during weekend yard work, which just so happens to coincide with Sunday day games.

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MLB.TV offers broad hardware support.

Sarah Tew/CNET

MLB.TV is part of the free MLB app, which is available on a slew of devices, from phones and tablets to computers and game consoles to streaming boxes and smart TVs. Here's the full list:

  • Mac and Windows PCs
  • iOS and Android phones and tablets
  • Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Chromecast streaming devices
  • PS4, PS5 and Xbox One game consoles
  • Samsung smart TVs
  • Xfinity Flex

You can get more details, including system requirements and specifics on supported models, on this MLB.com support page

I tested MLB.TV on the devices I usually use to watch games: iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro and Apple TV. I also checked out MLB.TV on my Roku TV and a Windows PC.

Stat overlays and radio feeds

My preferred device for watching MLB.TV is the iPad. All devices give you access to stat overlays, but the iPad's implementation is best. Swipe from the left edge and you can see a pitch-by-pitch summary of the game. Swipe from the right edge for the box score. A two-finger tap brings up both info panels along with scores of all the games along the top edge and a game-status panel along the bottom edge. 

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Stat overlays work well on the roomy iPad screen.

Matt Elliott/CNET

You get similar overlays on a phone, but there's only two and the box score panel that slides up from the bottom edge blocks most of the screen. On an iPad, you can call up all four panels and can still see most of the game going on in the middle of the screen. On a PC, there's only a single stat panel that you can toggle on and off on the right edge of the player. 

MLB.TV lets you watch the home or away video feed so you can listen to your team's announcers. And should you prefer your team's radio announcers to the TV announcers, you can change the audio feed so you can listen to the radio call while still watching the video stream. The radio feed is not usually synced to the video feed, however, which makes this arrangement less than ideal.

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The ability to choose my audio feed is one of my favorite features.

Matt Elliott/CNET

Watching MLB.TV on an Apple TV has a benefit not offered on my other devices, including Roku. On the Apple TV, when you tune into a game in progress, you are given three options: Catch Up, Start from Beginning and Watch Live. The last two are self-explanatory, and the first is the option I usually select. It gives you 90 seconds of highlights from the action you missed before taking you to the live feed. On Roku, you can only join live or start from the beginning.

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The Apple TV app has a cool catch-up feature.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As much as I like watching on the iPad, there's no option to start watching a game other than to join it live. Why can't every device offer the three options as Apple TV when I go to tune into a game that's already in progress?

On all my devices and using both wired and wireless network connections, games streamed smoothly. They occasionally get choppy when on Wi-Fi, but such instances lasted only a few seconds or a minute at most before returning to HD clarity. A few seasons ago, I would avoid watching on my Apple TV because the video quality looked poor when displayed on my HDTV, but now streaming games on MLB.TV on my TV look no different than watching a game on ESPN on my TV via YouTube TV.

Ad-free highlights, repetitive ads during games

When I miss a game, I can watch the Game Recap highlight package on MLB.TV the next morning or a slightly longer Condensed Game. Each shows plays from the game without additional commentary; you hear the call from either the home or away announcer. There is also a collection of individual highlights you can fire up to see the big hits and outstanding defensive plays.

When watching highlights, as a subscriber you do not need to sit through ads. The highlights play immediately, letting you jump from one to another without the fear of an ad inserting itself in the middle of your review of the previous night's game. Individual highlights are also available during a live game on about an inning-or-so delay.

You will see ads during the usual commercial breaks between innings and during pitching changes of live games, and they will get repetitive. While I get annoyed with having to watch the same ads repeated in between innings, I never grow tired of hearing ad reads for Skyline Chili during Reds games even though each mention of Cincinnati's unusual take on chili makes me wish I were back in the Queen City.

Beware big-market blackouts

For diehard baseball fans who don't live near their favorite team, an MLB.TV subscription is the only way to follow your team day in and day out over the course of the long, 162-game, six-month season. I don't take advantage of any of the extra video content and still think my subscription is money well spent just for the ability to tune into nearly every game live on TV or the radio and hear the Reds announcers no matter if my team is playing at home or on the road. My only word of caution is for out-of-market fans of big-market teams. 

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You access MLB.TV via the free MLB app, but be sure to check out how the blackout restrictions affect the team you follow before subscribing.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Baseball's inequity between big- and small-market teams makes it difficult to be a fan of a small-market club like the Cincinnati Reds because my team loses its young stars as they enter their prime and misses out on free agents to big-market teams that can hand out huge contract after huge contract. An MLB.TV subscription might be the only thing in baseball where it's an advantage to be a small-market fan. 

To fans of the Yankees, Dodgers and other big-spending, big-market teams, I would say enjoy your team's abundance of pitching, your deep lineup, your regular postseason appearances, but be sure to check its national TV broadcast schedule before subscribing to MLB.TV. There's not another option for out-of-market baseball fans that delivers the sheer volume of baseball of MLB.TV, but a Yankees fan who lives far from the Bronx, for example, might be able to satisfy their fandom with a pay TV service that includes ESPN, Fox, FS1, MLB Network and TBS instead -- the channels that regularly show your team's games that are blacked out on MLB.TV -- along with the national broadcasts added this year on Apple TV Plus and Peacock.