MLB/MiLB Stoppage Questions Extend to Streaming Services

On Thursday, Major League Baseball announced that all remaining spring training games would be cancelled and the regular season would be delayed at least two weeks. The Minor League Baseball regular season has been delayed indefinitely.

Officials at the state and local levels are reacting to the coronavirus threat in their own ways. One example is the Governor of Illinois asking that all events with 250 or more people not be held through May 1.

Clearly, the timing of the start of the 2020 baseball season at all professional levels is an unknown.

Among the many related unanswered questions, including reimbursement to fans who purchased game tickets, is how MLB will handle its tens of thousands of streaming customers.

Before the threat, MLB’s two major streaming services continued on a business-as-usual approach preparing for the season.

I will share what I have learned about changes to each since Thursday’s news.


MLB.TV

MLB.TV, the out-of-market package for live and archived game telecasts, renewed its annual subscribers for 2020 (at its list price $121.99) on or about February 28.

A prominent reminder was that subscribers would be able to:

“…watch almost 300 Spring Training games (with no blackout restrictions) and all 2,430 regular season MLB games…”

Obviously, given the events since, that is no longer the case.

The stated refund policy is that it must be requested within five days of the subscription purchase date or the automatic renewal date. In other words, it appears to be too late for renewed customers.

To understand if they have implemented an accommodation policy, I reached out to MLB.TV in three ways – via email, social media and phone. After several hours, here is what I have learned via each:

Email (subscriptionrenewal@website.mlb.com) – I received a prompt acknowledgement with a case number and a note that I will receive a reply “as soon as possible”.

Update: I received the follow-on email reply approximately eight hours after I sent mine. That was the good news. The bad is that they did not answer my MLB.TV payment question. In fact, it provides even less content than the script read to me on the phone below.

“MLB has decided to suspend Spring Training games and delay the start of the 2020 regular season by at least two weeks due to the national emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic. MLB will announce the effects on the schedule and will remain flexible as events warrant, with the hope of resuming normal operations as soon as possible. For the most up-to-date information regarding tickets, please see https://www.mlb.com/tickets.”

Social media (@MLBTV) – No response has been provided yet, though my query has received many re-tweets from others also interested.

Phone (866-800-1275) – This was very frustrating. In one piece of good news, however, the phone representative I reached noted that they have “paused billing” for those on the MLB.TV monthly plan.

For annual subscribers, however, she offered nothing. In fact, she (perhaps unknowingly) misled me.

She assured me that “the games have only been postponed for two weeks, and will all be played later.” When I explained why that is not the case for sure for the remainder of the spring training games and not likely for the early regular season games, either, she did not seem to understand. All she did was repeat her script.

Frustrated by this, I requested to speak to a supervisor. After being put on hold, I was told that “no supervisor is on the floor”. I requested a call-back from a manager and was told that was not possible.

At that point, I was offered a refund (even though the refund window has passed). This is their apparent response for annual subscribers. However, I feel like I would not have been given this option had I not escalated.

It is important to note that no information is provided on either the MLB.TV or MiLB.TV websites about the interruption in play.

While I would have preferred to have been told there was an accommodation plan for MLB.TV annual subscribers, there is apparently not one. For example, had they implemented a pro-rated discount based on number of games to be cancelled, I would have accepted it and remained a customer.

Instead, given no choice other than to continue at full price for what will clearly be a partial season, I accepted the refund offer. I was told my credit card will be credited in five to seven days. I then asked how I would receive written confirmation.

The rep said she would send me an email documenting the cancellation, which I did receive in a timely manner. Just after, I was sent a link to a customer satisfaction survey. (That may not have been a good idea on their part.)

My take is that whenever the season resumes, there is no way MLB.TV will raise its price – and depending on how long games are cancelled, it could and should be less.


MLB Extra Innings

For those who instead subscribe to the MLB Extra Innings package through your cable or satellite provider, I encourage you to investigate your options sooner rather than later.

Update: TCN forum member “Euro Dandy” is an Extra Innings customer. Here is what he shared:

“I canceled my Verizon FIOS MLB Extra Innings package (which includes MLB.tv). It was set for auto renewal. The annual bill gets split in half over April and May. You can opt out as late as 10 days prior to the start of the regular season. I’m not sure how they’ll handle billing now for those who don’t opt out, and I didn’t want to find out.

“So if anybody else has a similar package, you might want to take action now. I figure I can always add it back later when things get going again.”

(Note that 10 days prior to the (original) start of the regular season is March 16. Perhaps they will extend their window and perhaps not. So as suggested, do not delay if you want to cancel.)

As always, your mileage may vary.


MiLB.TV

As is (or more correctly now, was) the case, I have been a long-time subscriber to Minor League Baseball’s game streaming service, MiLB.TV. For 2020, if subscribers do not want to be automatically renewed for the full season at the price of $49.99, by Wednesday, March 18, you must either:

  • Change the information on your “Subscriptions” tab in your MiLB.com account or
  • Contact Customer Service by phone at 866-644-2687 or
  • Contact Customer Service at customerservice@website.milb.com

Again, to avoid annual renewal billing, you must take one of the above actions by March 18. Also note that these phone numbers and email addresses are different between the two services.

I used the first of the three options on Friday and it seemed to work smoothly.

Update

On Tuesday, March 17, I called MiLB.TV customer support to ask if their auto-renewal policy has been changed in light of the official delay to the start of the season.

I was told that their auto-renewal policy has been “adjusted”, but there has been “NO official policy change”.

That was ambiguous.  Will subscribers be renewed on March 18 or not? I did not get a clear answer.

However, the phone rep was very willing to cancel my auto-renew for me, if I desired. Since I had already done this online, no action was required for me – but I share this update in case you have yet to take action – but were planning to do so.


In closing

Good luck in all of your decisions and may we share a hope that conditions improve such that baseball at all levels can safely resume as soon as possible.


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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com or for fastest turnaround, pose your questions on The Cardinal Nation’s members-only forum. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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