Major League Baseball has reached a settlement with plaintiffs seeking to end MLB's regional television blackout policy on the basis that the restrictions are a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The settlement in Garber v. MLB, which does not resolve that question, allows to stand a potentially persuasive (though not binding) lower court ruling that MLB's television model is not within the traditional antitrust exemption for baseball.
What the agreement does do is open more doors for A's fans to legally watch games on the Internet, though it is not the panacea that cord cutters are hoping for. Here are the ways today's settlement affects you:
I already subscribe to CSN California
If you are already a subscriber to CSN California, not much changes for you this year, but potentially could for 2017. The terms of the settlement, according to the plaintiffs, prohibit MLB from raising the price of MLB.TV subscription packages in 2017 unless they are able to reach agreement with Comcast and DirecTV regional sports networks (the Root Sports networks) to stream regional sports networks to their television subscribers.
Note that this is not a guarantee that CSN California will allow you to watch A's games through NBC Live Extra in 2017, as the complexities of advertising and regional exclusivities may make it such that MLB and Comcast don't reach an agreement despite MLB's incentive to do so.
I don't subscribe to CSN California and live in the A's blackout area
The settlement of the case unfortunately leaves the question of whether MLB blackout areas are illegal anticompetitive behavior for another day. People who reside in the A's blackout area cannot legally watch A's games unless they are subscribers to CSN California.
Even if Comcast agrees to offer in-market streaming of A's games in 2017 or later, they will almost certainly require you to be a subscriber in the first place. That's the case for the recently announced in-market streaming deal with FOX to stream games on the Internet through their regional FOX Sports networks.
I live outside the A's blackout area
There are three important changes that affect the way you might legally view A's games if you do not live within the blackout area for the A's.
First, the price of the MLB.TV basic package that allows you to watch all out of market baseball games will be $109.99. That's the same price as the basic MLB.TV package for 2015, though it's not clear if the plaintiffs meant that would be the price for the premium package (which allows streaming on devices like the iPad and XBOX as well as the choice of high definitions feeds to view) or the basic package.
Second, if you want to just watch A's games, you can buy an A's-only package for $84.99, which is a 23 percent reduction from the basic package and 35 percent reduction from the premium package. This package still blacks out A's games if the A's are playing a team that has blackout rights in your area.
Third, however, is that if you subscribe to the regional sports network that owns the exclusive rights to broadcast a game that would ordinarily be blacked out on MLB.TV, you can pay an additional $10 to be allowed to stream CSN California. I guess if you really can't stand the local broadcaster you can buy into this. It would be most useful for those that live in AL West markets for the 19 intra-division games.