MLB Advanced Media started streaming baseball games in 2002 — way back before live streaming had become as prevalent as it is today — and that’s part of the reason CEO Bob Bowman said at TechCrunch NY that MLB’s streaming service is as successful as it is today.
“We made all our mistakes when no one was watching. We gained some expertise, and our footprint was so big, just hardware, as well as people monitoring 15 live games every day for six months,” Bowman said. “People started calling us. We started by saying why don’t we do it in the offseason. It turns out there isn’t an offseason. We’re charging for it; you have to make sure it works.”
MLB Advanced Media is a limited partnership of the club owners of Major League Baseball. Since launching, streaming has become 15 percent of MLB’s business, and is growing quickly, Bowman said. MLB has added a suite of stats that go with those streams, measuring everything down to the exit velocity of a batter’s bat.
“There’s a ready-made audience for content to be delivered to phones,” he said. “There’s a lot of handoffs; nothing’s quite as easy. But it’s much more reliable, it looks great, and we have a generation now that’s come to expect it.”
In some ways, that move seems prescient based on how many services are now streaming video. HBO most recently launched its own streaming service, HBO Now, on Apple devices. Netflix, too, is available on most devices. Younger viewers, Bowman said, are not as tolerant of services that aren’t available on mobile devices.
One of the challenges that remains, he said, was dealing with blackouts for games. It’s something the MLB is trying to figure out with the commissioner and teams, but “everyone has to give an inch,” he said. Still, Bowman said paid TV wasn’t going away anytime soon.
“I think for my generation, paid TV isn’t gonna go away,” he said. “We’re used to it, we grew up with it. It may be a melting iceberg but I think it’s pretty cold water. But I do think for the next generation, they want it when they want it on the device they want it. Whether that’s on the big screen or their personal device, that’s how they’re gonna want it.”