Rays games available (at a cost) on new Bally Sports app

ST. PETERSBURG—Beginning Friday, everyone in Tampa Bay can watch the Rays.

That includes residents who have Frontier cable. That includes cord-cutters who rely on YouTube TV or Hulu. That includes anyone willing to pay the $19.99 monthly fee for the new Bally Sports+ app.

The long-awaited app that bypasses cable providers and traditional streaming services to connect directly with consumers is getting a soft launch nationally with Tampa Bay as one of five markets that will provide local MLB broadcasts beginning Thursday. (The Rays are off, so the first game available will be against the Pirates on Friday night.)

In a global sense, the app is targeting younger viewers who eschew cable television and are accused of paying for programming a la carte.

But in Tampa Bay, the app will also appeal to customers of Frontier Communications. Because Frontier and Bally Sports have not come to terms on fees, customers of the cable service have, for the most part, been shut out of Rays and Lightning games in recent seasons.

“We are eager for the launch and our fans having 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) because they included streaming rights in their latest deal with Bally Sports. The Rays do not get 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 works out to $15.83 a month. There is also a seven-day free trial.

Bally, which is part of the Sinclair Broadcast Group, has streaming deals with only five MLB teams so this soft launch is designed to work out the kinks before offering games for all NHL and NBA teams in the fall.

A Tampa Bay viewer who pays for the annual subscription will get every Rays broadcast that airs on Bally Sports Sun along with every available Lightning game for the 2022-23 season. It has not yet been determined whether the Orlando Magic will be included in the Tampa Bay package because of the differences in programming between Bally Sports Sun (the Rays and Lightning network) and Bally Sports Florida (Magic and Marlins).

Whether cord-cutters will be willing to pay an additional $19.99 for a specialized sports network remains to be seen.

Earlier this month, the NESN sports network began offering the first direct-to-consumer app with Red Sox and Bruins games available for $29.99 per month, with a $1 promotional offer for the first month. The annual NESN package costs $329.99 and includes eight Red Sox tickets.

Nexttv.com reported last week that early users of the NESN services have had some issues with connected TV access.

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 following MLB’s All-Star Game in July.

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“We’re excited to provide 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 hometown cord-cutter and for fans looking for an easy, direct way to watch their favorite teams. This marks the first availability of the service, with a broader launch coming this fall that will include the Lightning.”

The new app will not change anything for viewers who already have Bally Sports through Spectrum or DirectTV.

John Romano can be reached at jromano@tampabay.com and @romano_tbtimes.

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