MLB in advanced talks to make Roku new home for Sunday morning baseball: Sources

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Major League Baseball and Roku are in advanced talks to make the service the new home for Sunday morning baseball this season, sources briefed on the discussions confirmed to The Athletic on Thursday.

The games were previously on NBC’s subscription streaming service Peacock. Peacock has been interested in retaining the “MLB Sunday Leadoff” package of nearly 20 games. It paid $30 million per season, but was only willing to renew for about a third of that price, according to executives briefed on the discussions.

MLB and Roku do not yet have a signed agreement, leaving the possibility that talks could still break down. MLB declined to comment.

Last season, Peacock’s package began April 23rd and ran into early September. With any possible agreement already past last year’s opening morning first pitch, Roku could have a lighter schedule compared to the 19 that Peacock streamed.

If a deal is signed, then each Sunday, just as with Peacock, the Roku games will start at 11:30 a.m. or just after noon. It allows for an exclusive window until the rest of the Sunday games have their first pitch after 1:30 p.m.

Roku is a streaming service that provides access to apps, like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and TV channels with verification of subscriptions. It also has begun its own programming with its channel to add to its hub.

MLB programming would be its first major live rights deal. The Roku service is available without a subscription, though some fans will still have to go through the process of figuring out how to access it on their TV, phones or any other mobile device.

If the partnership happens, the games are expected to be produced by the live production arm of MLB Network as Roku does not have the infrastructure.

MLB has been facing major television headwinds; especially recently with Diamond Sports failing to come to a carriage agreement with Comcast that has left 12 teams’ games unavailable to those franchises’ viewers that have that service.

The league is also staring at the possibility of ESPN opting out or threatening to opt-out to reduce the $550 million yearly deal it has for Sunday Night Baseball, the Home Run Derby and first round playoff games. The Disney-owned network has the option in its current deal to exercise the opt-out after next season.

ESPN, like Amazon and potentially Apple, would like to be part of the solution for the failing regional sports model as MLB evolves its plans.

MLB has major agreements with Fox and TNT Sports. Fox’s broadcasts are highlighted by the World Series, while TBS, a part of TNT Sports, has a league championship series. MLB also has Friday night regular season games on Apple TV+. In the past, MLB has streamed games on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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(Photo: Nic Antaya / Getty Images)

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