T-Mobile subscribers can expect five more seasons of MLB.tv for free after the wireless carrier signed a contract extension with Major League Baseball.
The renewal of T-Mobile’s partnership agreement will also see the company continue its sponsorship of the Home Run Derby during MLB All-Star Week and begin supporting one of baseball’s more interesting experiments in the minor leagues — the automated Ball Strike (ABS) system (Opens in new window) that baseball began testing there in 2019(Opens in new window).
The airline will deploy a private 5G network at an unspecified minor-league stadium to transmit ABS data and “ensure highly reliable, low-latency communications while players and officials review, challenge and analyze calls.”
This wording in T-Mobile’s release suggests that this test will involve the less ambitious form of ABS used, where human umpires still call balls and shots, but each team gets three challenges per game – those from pitchers only , catchers or batters. By the end of August last year, this system sustained 55% of human calls challenged in single-A and triple-A games(Opens in a new window).
Baseball has also conducted smaller-scale testing of a full “robot rump” version of ABS, in which that system’s Hawk-Eye video sensor technology (opens in a new window) (which tennis already uses with line calls) tracks balls and shots directly calls .
But until a clue is found on how to install T-Mobile’s network equipment, Major League Baseball made it clear that both scenarios are possible.
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T-Mobile’s ABS support could eventually fuel its ambitions to become a 5G application platform, but in the near future this carrier could see more value in offering its MLB.tv giveaway to subscribers through 2028 The T-Mobile Advantage since 2017, allowing for live streaming of games off-market but not in-market viewing thanks to regional bans (Opens in a new window) that MLB enforces to protect legacy carriage deals with regional sports networks.
The baseball streaming market has changed rapidly, however, as live TV streaming services have ditched “RSNs” (Opens in a new window) because of their high cost or, in the case of Fubo, introduced a new fee to to cover these expenses. With several RSNs now going bankrupt or with a parent company looking to go out of business, MLB seems increasingly interested in turning MLB.tv into a general-purpose game-streaming platform — one that could finally welcome fans who want to see their home team while they’re at home.
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