T-Mobile Streaming Original Major League Baseball Content

Wireless carrier T-Mobile Sept. 14 announced it would begin streaming an original Q&A video series featuring Major League Baseball players. Called “Beyond the Bases,” the series is hosted by Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks, who will be joined by New York Mets All-Star first baseman Pete Alonso, on Sept. 15 at 12 p.m. PT on T-MobileBeyondtheBases.com and available on demand afterwards.

The series addresses the players’ personal stories, little-known facts on their outside passions and personal interests. Upcoming guests include Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorious, Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson and New York Yankees first baseman Luke Voit, among others, through Nov. 10.

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“We started this season with free MLB.tv for T-Mobile and legacy Sprint customers, and now with “Beyond the Bases,” we’ll bring even more baseball to the fans,” Mike Sievert, CEO of T-Mobile, said in a statement.

T-Mobile in 2018 became the first telco provider to offer select subscribers free access to Netflix for a year. The promotion proved so popular Disney offered a similar deal for Disney+ to Verizon subs. This year, T-Mobile expanded third-party SVOD access with a promotion for MLB.tv, which affords subs access to all out of market games.

T-Mobile’s MLB promotion includes a trivia contest raising funds to helps cover Little League Baseball and Softball registration fees for kids in need around the country. Little Leaguers will also get the chance to ask their own questions to the MLB players on a weekly basis.

T-Mobile users can sign up to get notified about upcoming episodes and be entered to win a free trip to the MLB All-Star Week in Atlanta in 2021 — including VIP access to the T-Mobile Home Run Derby and All-Star Game, All-Star Sunday, including the All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game.

Pandemic-Shortened MLB Season Opens to Strong TV Ratings

Major League Baseball proved to be a home entertainment winner, delivering strong TV ratings on its opening weekend of games July 23-26. Citing a lack of competing sports (the NBA and NHL re-started their seasons July 30 and Aug. 1, respectively) and a fanbase starved for live competition, MLB said viewership was double than during the previous-year weekend.

The first 12 games of the truncated 60-game season broadcast on ESPN reportedly averaged 1.16 million viewers, which was up 34% from last year. The July 23 league opener featuring the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals generated 4 million viewers, the highest for a regular-season game since 2011.

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Nielsen said ratings for regional sports networks carrying non-national televised games saw rating increase 31% opening weekend and 18% across 25 markets through July 29.

“Whatever challenges were presented by the absence of fans was very much outweighed by the optimism,” Michael Mulvihill, head of strategy and analytics at Fox Sports, told The Wall Street Journal. “There was the expectation of a great, pent-up appetite for baseball.”

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That said, a spike in coronavirus infections among players on the Miami Marlins threatens to derail a season that is already played live in empty stadiums. The infections have caused postponement of 33 games through Aug. 2.

The St. Louis Cardinals remained quarantined in their Milwaukee hotel for a third day following four confirmed COVID-19 cases.

“You have to flatten the curve before you can move forward,” John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations for the Cardinals, told a local radio show. “So over the last couple days, we’ve been trending in the wrong direction, and hopefully we get some better news today.”

Amazon Prime Video Expands Live Sports Programming

Amazon Prime Video, unlike Netflix and Hulu, is not afraid of live sports programming costs. The SVOD service live-streams NFL football and Major League Baseball games (New York Yankees) in the United States.

Now Prime Video has acquired rights to select UEFA Champions League soccer matches in Germany. The Champions League is an annual competition pitting professional clubs across Europe to determine the top team.

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Prime Video, beginning in 2021, will live-stream a selection 0f “first-pick” 16 matches. The Champions League rights are currently held by Comcast’s Sky Deutschland, which reportedly subcontracts streaming rights to DAZN, the boxing-centric platform.

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“We’re excited to bring UEFA Champions League football to our customers in Germany,” Alex Green, managing director, Prime Video Sport Europe, said in a statement. “The UEFA Champions League is one of the most prestigious club competitions in the world.”

YouTube Expands MLB Partnership with Live-Game Streaming

YouTube April 30 disclosed it has expanded its relationship with Major League Baseball that includes the right to live-stream 13 games for free during the second-half of 2019 season in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

The deal mirrors last year’s deals between MLB, Amazon and Twitter that brought the national pastime to social media and beyond the league’s MLB.tv subscription streaming service.

Google-owned YouTube’s first-ever streaming deal with MLB follows previous deals that included Google Assistant serving as the presenting sponsor of the 2018 American and National League Championship Series.

That promotion marked Google’s first-ever presenting partnership around a U.S. professional sports league’s postseason event for its voice-activated technology.

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Previously, online TV subscription service YouTube TV served as the presenting sponsor of the 2017 and 2018 World Series.

YouTube TV also partnered with MLB on a season-long sponsorship — “First Pitch” – that showcased the YouTube TV brand during the first pitches of games on MLB Network and MLB.tv, and on MLB.com and MLB social channels.

In 2017, MLB’s engagement and content strategy on YouTube generated over 1 billion views.

“From live programming morphing into a YouTube TV spot, to prominent in-stadium placements, our innovative partnership [with MLB] allowed us to build awareness for YouTube TV,” Angela Courtin, global head of YouTube TV & originals marketing, said in a statement last year.

Chicago Cubs, Sinclair Partner for Pay-TV Network — and Streaming

More than 70 years of watching Chicago Cubs baseball broadcasts over the air is coming to an end.

The 2016 World Series winner and Sinclair Broadcast Group Feb. 13 announced a partnership to create the Marquee Sports Network — a new regional sports network (RSN) to be marketed to cable, satellite and telco pay-TV operators beginning in 2020.

The Cubs currently split broadcasts between local networks WGN-9 and WLS-7.

The new RSN will air regular season games, expanded pregame and postgame coverage, archive broadcasts and other local sports programming.

“We’ve been looking at this for a while,” Crane Kenney, president of business operations for the Cubs, told the Chicago Tribune. “We think the new network is going to give our fans unprecedented access and a richer, deeper connection to the team.”

The move comes as RSNs — notably those owned by Fox and Disney — come under increased interest by third parties, including over-the-top video behemoths Amazon and Yahoo.

Also, in a fragmented video landscape, pay-TV operators are upping proprietary and third-party OTT ventures (i.e. Comcast, Netflix, YouTube) to sustain subscribers and attract new ones.

The Cubs and Sinclair also plan to market their network to OTT platforms.

“We have strong relationships with cable companies and satellite operators,” said Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley. “That is a key function we will fill here.”

Bob Leib, a professional sports consultant, told the Tribune that even in a loss-leader priced video world, consumers are willing to pay for sports – a reality driven by affiliate fees charged by the Cubs and Sinclair for the RSN.

“The fan subscriber’s insatiable demand for game programming creates a built in tolerance for price increases,” Leib said.

 

 

 

Facebook Reiterates No ‘Premier League’ Soccer License Bid

Facebook reportedly confirmed it will not seek to license Britain’s Premier League soccer for the social media’s Watch over-the-top video platform.

Speaking recently at the Broadcasting Press Guild Lunch in London, Patrick Walker, director of media partnerships, EMEA at Facebook, said a Premier League license bid was “not on the cards” at the moment.

“We’re not going out with the intention of acquiring lots of football rights specifically,” said Walker. “It’s more testing different sorts of ideas and seeing how they work and collaborating with rightsholders.”

Specifically, Walker said Facebook’s strategy revolves around enhances and enticing online usage and consumption for sports leagues and then working with them or a third-party on distribution.

“Facebook, in a way is like the world’s biggest sports stadium,” he said. “There’s around half a billion people who follow a football club somewhere in the world on Facebook.”

Facebook, along with Google, Amazon and Netflix, had been rumored as parties possible seeking to secure exclusive access to the world’s most-popular professional soccer league.

While Netflix steadfastly refuses to consider live sports, Facebook, YouTube and Prime Video have embraced sports, including Major League Baseball, the National Football League and Champions League soccer.

Amazon, which streams NFL Thursday Night Football, reportedly is also considering licensing Fox Sports Regional Networks.

 

 

 

 

Twitter, Major League Baseball Renew Streaming License

Social media giant Twitter, beginning April 5, will live-stream one Major League Baseball game on a weekly basis through the 2018 season. The free, ad-supported, non-exclusive webcast between the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics begins at 3:35 PM ET at live.twitter.com/MLB.

The stream-cast is part of a renewed license agreement between the MLB and Twitter, as the national pastime seeks alternative distribution models.

Previously, Facebook announced an exclusive deal to live-stream 25 afternoon MLB games. YouTube is a presenting sponsor of the World Series. And ESPN+, Disney’s first standalone SVOD service, will live-stream more than 180 MLB games.

Indeed, MLB is no stranger to over-the-top distribution. It has been offering live-streaming access to out-of-market games through MLB.tv since 2012.

Pro Sports Using OTT Video to Target Younger Viewers

Formula 1 auto racing is a global brand generating more than $3 billion in revenue. It attracts an audience of 500 million people – largely older than Madison Avenue’s coveted 18-34-year-old demo. In the U.S., the rival to IndyCar remains a niche TV sport.

A survey by Ampere Analysis found just 6% of U.S. sports fans identify F1 as a sport they would watch on TV. Indeed, domestic viewers will rely on a repurposed feed from U.K. satellite TV operator Sky to watch any coverage of the 2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season.

F1 TV, the sport’s newly-launched over-the-top video service, is seeking to buck its older demo fan base by targeting younger viewers (under the age of 40) usually associated with streaming video.

London-based Ampere contends the $8-$12 monthly service – available in four languages (English, French, German and Spanish) and in nearly two dozen markets, including the U.S., will appeal to younger viewers because of the OTT element.

“As more sports become available OTT, it gives less popular leagues an opportunity to monetize markets where they are not mainstream enough to be attractive to a major broadcaster,” analyst Alexios Dimitropoulos wrote in a blog.

Even mainstream sports are taking the hint.

In the U.S., Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, Major League Soccer and World Wrestling Entertainment have launched OTT platforms — MLB with spectacular results.

The national pastime spearheaded the OTT movement among U.S. professional sports through its MLB Advanced Media division. The unit – which is co-owned by all 30 MLB franchises – recently sold backend digital tech subsidiary, BAMTech, to Disney in a deal worth more than $3.5 billion.

“Sports fans face a myriad of distractions and while commercial opportunities are still developing, it’s critical for rights owners to build their presence on social platforms to help maintain loyal audiences, support tune-in and provide a content experience which meets the needs of viewers who watch much less linear TV,” Gareth Capon, CEO at digital media aggregator Grabyo, told consulting firm KNect365.com.

Indeed, WWE, which makes millions marketing pay-per-view wrestling entertainment, generates significant ancillary revenue from WWE.tv, an OTT platform with almost 1.5 million subscribers.

“We expect more leagues and events to follow the same route … over the next few years,” said Dimitropoulos.