On June 3rd, the NFL announced it had partnered with Yahoo! to live-stream the Buffalo Bills versus Jacksonville Jaguars game from London, for a price of $10 million. If not for this deal the game would have only been broadcast in the local markets. Now it will be seen around the world.
What does this have to do with baseball? Live-streaming global TV is clearly the future of sports broadcasting. This is only the tip of the Internet’s potential.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is mindful that younger demographics of fans now turn to the Internet to watch their sports content and TV overall. Despite MLB’s national TV contracts running through the 2021 season, expect baseball to strike a deal for global streaming its marquee events soon.
Major League Baseball currently has a streaming service of its own through MLB TV. But, it serves as a subscription service where fans pay $80-$100, depending on the package, a year. The service is for out of market fans that want to watch their hometown team.
With national TV ratings for playoff and All-Star games declining, live-streaming these events would be an excellent way for the MLB to boost viewership.
For the past few years the NFL live-streamed the Super Bowl via NFL.com, for free. If baseball desires to catch up to the ratings juggernaut that is the NFL, the league should consider a deal with either FOX, or ESPN, both broadcasting partners with strong online presences.
Another way that Rob Manfred can join the digital age is to partner with someone outside the box. Sites like Yahoo!, Hulu, YouTube, Twitch (a video game streaming network owned by Amazon) or even Netflix, are all chomping at the bit to get into the sports broadcasting game. A deal with any of them would be a game changer, and open up more opportunities for both baseball and for other sports as well.
Instead of partnering with the traditional network and cable powerhouses such as FOX, ESPN/ABC, NBC, CBS, or Turner, leagues like the NBA, NHL and MLS can reach new levels of success and gain new audiences world wide. Countries like Japan & South Korea, and areas such as Central America & the Caribbean islands, each baseball fanatics, would benefit greatly from these potential deals.
MLB already has a strong online presence thanks to MLB Advanced Media. MLBAM creates mobile apps such as the widely successful MLB At-Bat, provides in-house highlights, and collects statistics for players both standard and advanced. With that already in play, partnering with another online powerhouse could prove enormous for what on the surface appears to be a dying sport.
A new age is upon us. There are many new ways to create and watch content thanks to the Internet. Shows like House of Cards, Community, Orange is the New Black, have found big success online. There is no reason to believe that sports, especially baseball, can’t find that same success.