Roku: MLB Return Not Driving Pay-TV Viewership

The return of Major League Baseball during the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t resulted in a return to pay-tv, according to new data from Roku. The streaming media device manufacturer/distributor, citing internal research, found that 70% of households that watched baseball in 2019 did not tune in to watch the 2020’s delayed season opening weekend.

A loss of live sports due to COVID-19 is the primary reason 25% of survey respondents said they have dropped pay-TV. Just 20% of those subscribers said they would re-new pay-TV with the return of live sports. The findings counter claims by Disney-owned ESPN and Fox Sports about record opening weekend baseball ratings.

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“The return of MLB was a swing and a miss when it comes to viewership for traditional linear TV as less than one third of baseball’s 2019 household audience tuned in to watch any of the opening week games on linear television,” Gaurav Shirole, director of audience measurement at Roku, said in a statement.

Shirole believes that as live sports returns, fans have found new ways to consume it via video streaming services such as MLB.tv, the SVOD platform affording subscribers out-of-market games live or on-demand.

“Blacked out games are typically available to stream about 90 minutes after their conclusion,” he said.

Other MLB streaming sources include YouTube TV (a sponsor of last year’s World Series), Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV, AT&T TV Now and fuboTV, among others.

Games are also broadcast across a variety of channels, including ESPN, ESPN2, FOX, FS1, TBS, MLB Network and regional networks including NBC Sports and Fox Sports.

T-Mobile Giving Subs Free Year of Major League Baseball Streaming Service

T-Mobile is giving subscribers a free year access to MLB.tv, the standalone subscription streaming service operated by Major League Baseball.

The promotion, which is part of T-Mobile Tuesdays and begins on March 24, enables T-Mobile data subs unlimited access to MLB games outside their market.

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MLB.tv launched in 1995 as an audio-only format. It currently charges $25 monthly or $119 for the season.

The wireless carrier said that any T-Mobile customer on a qualifying monthly rate plan can participate in the Tuesdays promotion. To be eligible, customers must be at least 18 years old, minors need to be at least 13 years of age with parental consent, and customers in Puerto Rico must be at least 21 years old. Subs must download the T-Mobile Tuesdays app to access MLB.tv.

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Amazon Channels Adds Major League Baseball Streaming Service

Just in time for the start of the 2019 Major League Baseball season, Amazon March 20 announced it has added the league’s MLB.tv subscription streaming video service to its Channels platform.

Amazon Channels affords Prime members direct access to third-party over-the-top video services, including Starz, Showtime OTT, Dove Channel and HBO Now.

Prime members in the U.S. can subscribe to MLB.TV for $24.99/month, or a one-time payment of $118.99 for a season pass, after a 7-day free trial.

MLB.tv, which launched 10 years ago, was one of the first professional sports standalone SVOD services offering out-of-market live-game streaming access to any of its 30 franchise teams.

The platform is supported by BAMTech, the backend technology company Disney acquired from Major League Baseball Advanced Media for nearly $3 billion. BAMTech is supply IT support for Disney’s pending Disney+ SVOD service.

“Prime members love the convenience of streaming live sports on-the-go—and now with MLB.tv, they won’t have to miss watching their favorite teams play,” Marie Donoghue, VP, global sports video, said in a statement. “We know Prime members can’t get enough of sports, and we’re dedicated to providing more access to the Major League Baseball games they want.”

Prime members streaming MLB.tv on Fire TV devices (Fire TV Cube, Fire TV Stick, Fire TV Stick 4K, and Fire TV Edition) will have access to Prime Video’s exclusive X-Ray feature, which allows users to access live in-game stats, team and player details and play-by-play information while they watch.

To access the X-Ray feature, simply click up on the Fire TV remote control while the game is playing.

 

Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu Lead Parks Associates Top 10 OTT Services List

Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu, in that order, lead Parks Associates updated list of the top 10 subscription over-the-top (OTT) video services in the U.S. market. The list, released Nov. 7, is based on estimated number of subscribers.

The full list in order is:

  1. Netflix
  2. Prime Video Users (Amazon Prime)
  3. Hulu (SVOD)
  4. HBO Now
  5. Starz
  6. MLB.TV
  7. Showtime
  8. CBS All Access
  9. Sling TV
  10. DirecTV Now

 

“Which company is the leading OTT video subscription service remains a topic of debate,” said Brett Sappington, senior director of research, Parks Associates, in a statement. “According to our estimates, Amazon has more Prime Members than Netflix has subscribers. However, when you consider only those Prime Members that use Prime Video, Netflix is the largest. Hulu remains the third largest but continues to grow its subscriber base.”

The firm noted the rise of a second tier of OTT video services from services with recognized brands, including several with high profile original content. Online pay-TV services Sling TV and DirecTV Now round out the top 10, ahead of similar services Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV and PlayStation Vue. Online pay TV has been one of the fastest growing segments in the OTT video space, with aggressive marketing by all, according to Parks.

“HBO, Starz, Showtime, and CBS All Access demonstrate the powerful attractiveness of original content through series like ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Star Trek: Discovery,’” Sappington said in a statement. “This pattern suggests new services such as WarnerMedia’s DC Universe and the forthcoming streaming service from Disney could achieve success quickly.”

The top subscription sports OTT video services are MLB.TV, WWE Network and ESPN+. MLB.TV continues to lead the sports OTT subscription category, benefiting from its long tenure as a streaming service and popularity among dedicated baseball fans, according to Parks. WWE also has a dedicated fan base and publicly reported having more than 1.2 million U.S. subscribers at the end of Q3 2018, according to Parks. ESPN+ is a newcomer to the OTT video marketplace but recently announced that it had exceeded 1 million subscribers.

Other findings include:

  • OTT video subscription penetration has reached 64% of U.S. broadband households, with more than two-thirds subscribing only to one of the top three services, Netflix, Prime Video, or Hulu;
  • The online pay-TV audience is similar to the OTT audience — they are younger and quicker to adopt new technologies when compared to traditional pay-TV households; and
  • Over the past three years, OTT churn rates have gradually fallen each year from 31% of OTT subscriptions cancelled each year in 2015 to 28% in 2018.

Facebook Snags Rights to 25 MLB Afternoon Games

In a first, Major League Baseball has signed a deal with Facebook enabling the social media behemoth (1.4 billion active daily users) to exclusively stream one afternoon MLB Network game per week. The deal reportedly is worth upwards of $35 million.

The deal, which primarily involves Wednesday games, starts April 4 with the Philadelphia Phillies taking on the New York Mets. Facebook reportedly will include graphics and links during games to enhance the social media appeal among younger viewers.

Last May, MLB and Facebook partnered to stream select Friday night games – the league’s first regular-season live streams on a third-party platform beyond MLB.com and MLB.tv. Facebook previously streamed Spring Training games in 2011.

Unlike Netflix, which thus far is shunning live sports programing, Facebook, YouTube and Amazon have become active platforms/bidders for National Football League, UEFA Champions League soccer and NCAA basketball live contests.

“Much like the migration of sports from broadcast to cable, you’re reaching these milestones where the combination of the financial incentive and the audience allow you to make the next great leap,” industry consultant Lee Berke told Bloomberg.com. “This is part of the next great leap.”