The local cable network that airs Boston’s Major League Baseball and National Hockey League games is launching a standalone streaming subscription, marking a first for regional sports networks.
The option from NESN will be available starting Wednesday and lets people sign up to watch live games without paying for a cable subscription. It comes as millions of Americans are canceling traditional pay TV subscriptions each year as streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+ and HBO Max become more popular.
Starting Wednesday, NESN will charge $29.99 a month for streaming access to its network’s programming, which includes live Red Sox and Boston Bruins games. The first month will cost $1 as a promotional price. An annual subscription costs $329.99 and comes with eight tickets to any Red Sox game in 2022.
The service, NESN 360, will only be available to people in the New England area. MLB owns out-of-market streaming rights for its MLB TV, a streaming service that’s available nationally.
“We believe the direct subscription option will build on NESN’s reach in the region,” said Sean McGrail, NESN’s president and chief executive officer, in a statement.
NESN, majority owned by Boston Red Sox owner Fenway Sports Group, is seeking to win over a new, younger audience by offering a digital streaming alternative for Red Sox and Bruins games. But the service will be pricey relative to existing streaming services. Netflix and HBO Max, the most expensive global streaming services, have standard plans that cost about $15 per month in the U.S.
Regional sports networks have to charge a significantly higher price for an out-of-cable service because of their agreements with cable TV providers, such as Comcast, Charter and DirecTV. Cable providers have agreed to pay NESN a flat monthly fee based on estimates about viewership.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal, which owns CNBC.