At long last, fans who want to watch Milwaukee Brewers games without a cable or satellite subscription will have that opportunity.
On Thursday, Sinclair Broadcasting will debut Bally Sports+, a direct to consumer offering that enables the purchase of the Bally Sports Wisconsin app without an existing cable or satellite service. For $19.99 a month or $189.99 for an annual subscription, users can purchase the app and watch live Brewers games, as well as Bucks games eventually in the fall.
Bally Sports Wisconsin airs almost all Brewers games and a considerable slate of Bucks games during the year, though postseason games will air elsewhere. Bally Sports Wisconsin hasn’t been offered on most cord-cutting services such as YouTubeTV or Hulu+LiveTV for nearly two years.
The change is part of a soft launch, which means it’ll only work in five “markets,” specifically those who watch the Brewers, Detroit Tigers, Miami Marlins, Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Rays. Anyone in Wisconsin should be located in Brewers territory and have access to the service.
“We want to learn form this experience before we go to the broader market and the rest of the country,” said Mike Dimond, general manager of Bally Sports North and Bally Sports Wisconsin. “We want consumer feedback standpoint … because we want to make the best product available in the long run.”
The product will be the same app that already exists for viewers who use a cable/satellite account to access Bally Sports Wisconsin; it’s merely a new doorway in. In addition to the live games, users can watch pregame and postgame content, as well as some extras like Minnesota Wild games.
The markets were selected because Sinclair owns direct-to-consumer rights for those five. Dimond stressed that Sinclair is subject to the same restrictions as all Major League Baseball broadcasts, and only those inside the Brewers territory defined by MLB will have a chance to see Brewers games.
“Your access point needs to be within the territory, based on your zip code,” Dimond said. “With the current app, you will have couch rights, which will allow you to travel outside of that (market) for 30 days, but after that, the device has to come back into the marketplace, just like it is now.”
Dimond said BallySportsPlus.com will go live Thursday morning, in time for users to sign up and watch the Brewers day game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
“This is an introductory launch, there’s not going to be a full-scale marketing effort here,” Dimond said. “We’ll hit there when we do a broader launch in the fall with the start of the NBA and NHL seasons. You’ll see a full-court press with marketing. As a fan in Wisconsin, you’re going to get the Brewers and Bucks as part of this. Anything you’re seeing on the linear channel, you’ll be able to access on the direct-to-consumer as well.”
He said he’s aware some users have had trouble working with the current app but believes many issues on his organization’s end have been ironed out.
“We do have full customer service support here; we’ve listed a third party to help us, and this is what they do for a living, monitoring social media and working with agents on hand to help the consumer get through problems or anything like that,” Dimond said.
“It’s version 1.0; we want to make sure the functionality is there and the user experience is where it needs to be. We’ll build from there.”
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JR Radcliffe can be reached at (262) 361-9141 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JRRadcliffe.