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Every Breath You Take… (MLB and Streaming the Games)

by Ed Botti

October 24, 2021


MLB plans to stream local games. Is that good for us?

As difficult as it may seem to some of our readers to grasp, there was a time when very few of us had Cable TV.

We got our Baseball from WPIX and WOR. Not every game was on TV. So, on those nights, we tune in and catch the game on the radio, or wait until the 11 o’clock news for the highlights. I can still remember times when I would call Sports Phone every 10 minutes to get the scoring updates.

Sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s, cable TV worked its way into becoming a standard service for most of us. I was a hold out!

Why not? WPIX still showed around 70 or 80 games a year, so I was happy with that.

But, like everyone else, I eventually gave up the battle and bought Cable TV. Abruptly, much to the chagrin of my new wife, I had baseball every single night of the week! If I wasn’t going to be home, I would set my VCR and record the game and watch it when I got home.

Suddenly, I was in on every game.

Not exactly great for a newlywed, but it worked out!

As WPIX and WOR lost out to the Regional Sports Networks (RSN), such as MSG for the Yankees and Sports Channel for the Mets, Cable took over, and we were locked in.

Then all of sudden, we entered the world of teams owing their own RSNs. The Yankee kicked it off with the formation of The Yankee Entertainment and Sports Network (YES), soon thereafter, others would follow, and the teams suddenly controlled all their digital content, and would sell that to the cable companies.

Fast forward to current day, and the cable companies have a monopoly, and us fans are completely reliant on Cable TV to watch our teams.

Now, things seem to ready for another cultural shift. Major League Baseball is reportedly planning to kick off a service to provide “cord-cutters” a realistic alternative to consume MLB’s digital content for their home teams by providing fans in local markets a streaming service.

The Industry has seen millions of subscribers move on from traditional Cable TV, and MLB is very well aware of the challenge to get them back to consuming their content.

Since MLB was the pioneer in streaming live games with their MLB.TV platform, and is widely thought of as the benchmark for live streaming of digital content, they now seek to up the ante by leveraging and accessing their large streaming infrastructure and develop a new platform to distribute their product via a new pay for service application.

The key here is something referred to as Geolocation.

To a layman in the digital world that simply means the identification of the geographic location of a user or computing device via a variety of data collection mechanisms.

Gaining Geolocation of a user leads to data collection.

Data collection?

Glad you asked. When browsing the Internet, you leave behind digital traces that websites can legally use to keep track of your activities and identify you. The data collected can include your location, what device you’re using, which advertisements you’ve clicked on, purchasing patterns and more. Basically, every single online digital signal you view is recorded and inventoried.

So, MLB wants to know more about us, who we are, who vote for, what we buy, what we look at, who we like, we dislike, and other things as well, in exchange they will provide games.

They haven’t said it yet, but data mining is an extremely profitable business. I have feeling, our data will be sold.

It was reported that Google makes $400 million every day by mining data. Profit margins are currently at around 23 percent, so that’s $92 million every 24 hours in profit.

I doubt MLB isn’t going to want a slice of that pie.

Just as they do in the online gambling world.

Since MLB already delivers all games to out-of-market consumers, developing a platform by geolocation for local consumers looks like an easily attainable goal.

What will need to be worked out and analyzed very closely is how it weighs on the RSN’s digital rights and if it will put an end to those revenue streams. If it does, will the revenue streams lost be absorbed by the revenue from data mining? Or more to the point, how much more in revenue will the league generate from data mining?

Commissioner Manfred recently described the RSN rights as “extraordinarily valuable to baseball”.

“We believe those digital rights are crucial and we want to own and control the platform on which they’re delivered, we may have partners in that process”, he later added.

The understatement of the year. He is ready to sell our private data.

It has also been reported that both the NBA and NHL may potentially become partners in this venture.

“Every game you play, I’ll be watching you”

Just something to keep in mind!


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