Pittsburgh Pirates, Penguins launch streaming service for local games

Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Paul Skenes.

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The regional sports network that broadcasts Pittsburgh’s MLB and NHL teams is launching a direct-to-consumer streaming service, the latest to take the plunge as more fans cut the cord.

SportsNet Pittsburgh on Monday unveiled SNP 360, which will cost fans in its local market $17.99 per month to watch Pirates and Penguins games outside of the pay TV package. Viewers subscribed to pay television will also have access to the application.

The streaming deal for the Pirates and Penguins – the highest-rated NHL team in the 2023-24 regular season – comes as activity from regional sports networks, a key part of the leagues’ media rights model professionals, is affected by the move to streaming. It also follows a shakeup at SportsNet Pittsburgh last year.

The network changed ownership last year when Discovery of Warner Bros. has exited the regional sports networks business, which it inherited in the 2022 merger between Warner Media and Discovery.

The network now belongs to the Pirates and the Penguins. Fenway Sports Group, owner of the Boston Red Sox, has agreed to acquire a majority stake in the Penguins in 2021. Fenway Sports Group and Delaware North, also parent company of the Boston Bruins, own regional sports network NESN, which operates SportsNet Pittsburgh. .

“Our desire has been to reach fans wherever they are and give them the opportunity to access television broadcasts of our clubs,” said Sean McGrail, CEO of NESN and SportsNet Pittsburgh. “Many people don’t subscribe to a linear TV package, and we wanted to make sure they had the opportunity to engage with our teams and become part of the fan base.”

Pittsburgh Penguins left winger Jake Guentzel (59) celebrates a first period goal with the team’s bench during the NHL regular season game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Toronto Maple Leafs, on November 20, 2021, at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario.

Gerry Angus | Sportswire Icon | Getty Images

SNP 360 came together quickly over the past six months when NESN took over operations from Sportsnet Pittsburgh, McGrail said. He said the network is “aggressively priced” the service, lower than the cost of most other regional sports streaming plans, while growing its content beyond the Pirates and Penguins.

NESN, which broadcasts local Red Sox and Bruins games, was the first regional sports network to offer a streaming alternative for its market in 2022. NESN 360 is available for $29.99 per month, or $180 for first year on the annual plan via a current subscription. promotional offer. Otherwise, it costs $329.99 per year.

Last year, the YES Network, home of the New York Yankees, Brooklyn Nets and New York Liberty, launched its streaming service for $24.99 per month. MSG Network, which broadcasts New York Knicks, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils games, launched a new streaming service in 2023 and charges $29.99 per month.

Regional sports networks, once a lucrative business, have been particularly strained as consumers forgo the traditional pay-TV package in favor of streaming.

Many now offer streaming options to win back these customers. Channels remain cautious on pricing to avoid further disrupting the pay-TV model and breaking contracts with distributors.

Contracts with pay-TV distributors help finance the billions of dollars in fees that networks pay professional sports teams to broadcast their games.

Diamond Sports, owner of the largest portfolio of regional sports networks, also launched streaming services for some of its teams before filing for bankruptcy protection in 2023. During the bankruptcy proceedings, Diamond terminated contracts with some teams to avoid paying high rights fees.

“It’s definitely been a difficult time,” McGrail said. “But these are times that bring opportunity, and you need to actively think about your distribution strategy and how you’re going to manage distribution in the future. This meets the needs of a certain group of people who don’t live not in the linear world. We’re trying to be flexible and make sure we support those fans.”

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