Would you pay $20 a month just to have access to Bally Sports North?
It's a question that I posed about a year ago when there was talk about Bally offering a direct-to-consumer app for $23.
But now it's nearing a reality at the $20 price point, as reported Wednesday by The Streamable.
Sinclair, which owns the regional sports networks under the Bally brand, said at an earnings call Wednesday that it plans to do a "soft launch" of its streaming service this quarter — so before July 1 — and that it will cost $19.99 a month or $189.95 for a full year (which knocks the monthly price down to about $16).
There are still plenty of unknowns, such as: Would that price give consumers access to out-of-market games or just the Bally Sports channel in their market? And will Sinclair gain streaming access to all the teams it needs to make this attractive (it has streaming rights to all NBA and NHL teams but just five MLB teams, per Streamable).
And of course the biggest unknown is whether Minnesota consumers would pay $20 a month just for access to — presumably, once rights are sorted out — Wild, Wolves, Twins, Lynx and Minnesota United games?
On one hand, I could see it being relatively attractive to anyone who is only a fan of local sports and doesn't otherwise watch much live TV. This subset of fans probably skews younger and doesn't want to commit to an expensive cable or satellite package.
On the other hand, paying for everything a la carte gets expensive. If consumers who have been frustrated by Bally Sports North being removed from streaming services like Hulu and YouTube TV, as well as satellite giant Dish Network, see this is one more bill to pay for something they used to get as part of their bundled package, they might balk at it.
I surveyed fans on Twitter as to whether they would spend for the service, and their responses were all over the map. There was a lot of "no," a lot of "yes" and a lot of nuance.
All that said, the bottom line is that we aren't that far off from BSN being available at a price point that just wasn't offered before (at least not without some legal questions).
Until leagues figure out their own localized streaming options, it might be the best thing to happen for some consumers.