A syllogism might go like this: Many people now watch events via streaming video. Minnesota Twins games are events. Therefore, many people watch Twins games via streaming video.
The actual state of affairs, though? Contrary. Even as video has emerged during the pandemic as the next best thing to being there, the trend in livestreamed regional sports has gone in the opposite direction. Therefore, when the Twins begin their 2021 regular season next week, a number of dedicated or prospective fans — the ones known as cord-cutters — won't be able to watch from afar, even though they previously could.
It is, of course, about money. It's about conglomerates, subsidiaries, partnerships and licenses. Whether you can watch this year has its nuances but comes down to whether you're willing to pay for the services that were willing to pay the holder of distribution rights, the Sinclair Broadcast Group. If you have traditional cable or DirecTV, you're good to go. If your plan was to use a popular TV streaming service like YouTube or Hulu, you'll go without. (A streaming option from AT&T TV survives.)
There are two ways this could resolve, one of which would be ideal and the other of which has an air of eventuality. Whether you'd find the latter a refreshing breeze or ill wind depends on what you think about gambling.
In the ideal scenario, the joint influence of the Twins and other affected teams and sports would pressure Sinclair to lower its fees to a level the streaming services would agree to pay. Sinclair, through a subsidiary, owns Fox Sports North and similar networks, which are soon to be rebranded under the name Bally Sports (more on that in a bit).
It's in the teams' interest to try. Cord-cutters are not a majority of viewers but are significant, and include a younger audience that could boost future fan bases but that has plenty of competing entertainment options.
Sinclair seems to have other plans. Its solution to the economics of regional sports broadcasting seems to lie in its partnership with Bally's — a casino operator to which it sold naming rights for the networks — and in a future direct-to-consumer app of its own.
You can see where this is headed. You can conjure an image of fans sagging on their sofas, placing bets on the outcome of a game or even the next pitch.
In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that prohibited states from authorizing sports gambling. Half the states have taken the opening. Minnesota has not yet done so, and though there are legislative proposals to set things in motion, they aren't anticipated at the top of the agenda this year. Another obstacle is opposition from Indian gaming. Still, with other states moving ahead, the issue will have to be addressed eventually.