After a couple of small streaming steps earlier this season, MLB.com took a giant leap last week with a live video and audio Webcast of a game between the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers. And the league hopes to expand the Webcasts next season in an effort to drive fan interest—particularly among the displaced faithful, those who live outside their favorite team's television-coverage area.
According to MLB.com President and CEO Bob Bowman, 30,000 people watched the free Webcast. Current plans are for one or two games a week to be available via Webcast for the remainder of the season (barring a strike).
"We were pleasantly surprised by the numbers and the video quality," says Bowman.
A limiting factor on the audience was that it was available only to viewers outside the New York and Arlington, Texas, markets. A credit-card number was required to verify the viewer's address. More than 12,000 fans living in the New York and Arlington markets attempted to watch the Webcast but were denied.
Bowman says the league is respectful of the holders of local and national TV rights and would stream a game into a local market only if the ballclubs gave the league approval. He believes that an argument can be successfully made with local broadcasters that streaming will add to their revenues and viewer base, not take away. The broadcast last Monday was of the YES Network and DirecTV feed, complete with advertisements.
"About 30,000 more pairs of eyes saw the ads," says Bowman. "You don't think YES is going to get more for their ads if there are 100,000 people watching a video stream of the broadcast?"