ST. PETERSBURG — Starting Friday, everyone in Tampa Bay can watch the Rays.
This includes residents who have Frontier Cable. This includes cable cutters that rely on YouTube TV or Hulu. This includes anyone willing to pay the $19.99 monthly fee for the new Bally Sports+ app.
The long-awaited app that bypasses traditional cable companies and streaming services to connect directly to consumers is getting a nationwide soft launch with Tampa Bay as one of five markets that will provide local MLB broadcasts from Thursday. (The Rays are off, so the first available game will be against the Pirates on Friday night.)
Overall, the app targets younger viewers who avoid cable TV and are used to paying for pay-per-view programming.
But in Tampa Bay, the app will also appeal to Frontier Communications customers. Because Frontier and Bally Sports did not agree on fees, cable service customers have, for the most part, been locked out of Rays and Lightning games in recent seasons.
“We’re looking forward to launch and our fans will have another way to watch our games,” Rays president Matt Silverman said.
The Rays are part of the launch (along with the Royals, Tigers, Marlins and Brewers) as they included broadcast rights in their latest deal with Bally Sports. The Rays are not getting any additional revenue from the new app.
Viewers can either pay for the Bally Sports+ app on a monthly basis at $19.99 or annually for $189.99, which equals $15.83 per month. There is also a seven-day free trial.
Bally, part of the Sinclair Broadcast Group, has streaming deals with just five MLB teams. This soft launch is therefore designed to resolve issues before offering games to all NHL and NBA teams in the fall.
A Tampa Bay viewer who pays the annual subscription will receive all Rays broadcasts on Bally Sports Sun as well as all available Lightning games for the 2022-23 season. It has not yet been determined whether the Orlando Magic will be included in the Tampa Bay package due to scheduling differences between Bally Sports Sun (Rays and Lightning Network) and Bally Sports Florida (Magic and Marlins).
Whether the cord cutters will be willing to pay the extra $19.99 for a specialty sports network remains to be seen.
Earlier this month, sports network NESN began rolling out the first direct-to-consumer app with Red Sox and Bruins games available for $29.99 per month, with a promotional offer of $1 for the first month. The annual NESN package costs $329.99 and includes eight Red Sox tickets.
Nexttv.com reported last week that early adopters of NESN services had encountered problems accessing connected TV.
The Bally Sports app can be viewed on the web, Android TV, Apple TV, mobile (iOS/Android) and Amazon Fire. More platforms are expected to be added after the MLB All-Star Game in July.
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“We are thrilled to offer a new way for local fans to watch Rays games,” Bally Sports Sun general manager Steve Tello said in a statement. “Bally Sports+ is specifically designed for the local cord-cutter and for fans looking for an easy and direct way to watch their favorite teams. This marks the first availability of the service, with a wider launch coming this fall which will include the Lightning.
The new app won’t change anything for viewers who already have Bally Sports through Spectrum or DirectTV.
Jean Romano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @romano_tbtimes.
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