MLB Losing Legions of Fans with Backward Internet Media Policies

There’s a reason you see so many Cialis and Viagra commercials during
Major League Baseball telecasts- it’s pretty much the only demographic
they have left!

MLB
is dying among the youth crowd for one simple reason: it’s failure to
join the rest of the 20th century when it comes to coexisting with
internet media.

I hate the term “new media,” or even “internet media” for that
matter, because the web is the only medium growing while every other
medium is dwindling or dying out. Yet baseball still has a clause in
their collective bargaining agreement prohibiting
media access for representatives of web sites or blogs. Why? Because
they don’t want any video highlights of any game getting posted anywhere
other than the prescription service they want you to purchase. They
also want their site to be the ONLY source of internet coverage.

Take a look at page 205 of the CBA, (which would actually be page 217 in this pdf)
which discusses club media regulations. You’ll notice the very first
point mentions “press, radio and television” and absolutely nothing
about the world wide web.

Pretty much sums it up. But here’s how it affects you the fan, and kills their own product in the process:

As any internet user has noticed, Google and YouTube are in bed with
each other. And that’s the #1 and #3 highest traffic sites in the world.
However, MLB pulls every video it can off YouTube, claiming copyright
infringement under the usage rights of MLB Advanced Media. How have you
ever heard a more inaptly named firm than “MLB Advanced Media?” They’re
so effing regressive that it’s laughable. It’s like the infamous Healthy
Forest Initiative or Clear Skies Act.

For an audio discussion on these issues and more go here.

Anyways, here’s the gist of it from our friend Chris Walterbach’s blog:

I tried to view a video that was a highlight of a recent Minnesota Twins
game.  Well, unfortunately for me, the video was taken down by Major
League Baseball (MLB) for copyright violation.  I continued to search
for other relevant baseball highlights and came up empty.  I couldn’t
find any broadcast highlights of the Red Sox 2004 World Series run.
 Nothing from the Yankees’ clinching game 6 victory in this past year’s
World Series.

What is the point of this “strategy?”  I understand why they may
want to keep highlights of a recently played game as copyrighted
material in hopes to drive web traffic to the team websites, the MLB
Network, or MLB.TV.  One would think the league would want to have as
many highlights on YouTube to continue growth of their very well known
brand.  Perhaps MLB’s marketers or crack legal team know their target
audience doesn’t go to YouTube for their baseball highlights.  If
that’s the case, I would dispute that with this research
I found by ESPN that shows most sports fans are in the 18-34 age
demographic and are male.  Fairly obvious, right? Oh, and at the bottom
of the page it mentions that “68% of Avid Sports Fans used the Internet
in the past 30 days.”  Oops!

The only precedent that comes to mind is the late Bill Wirtz, the former Chicago Blackhawks
owner who refused to let any of his home games be televised. His
retarded line of thinking cost the team millions and millions of
dollars, and more importantly (although impossible to quantify) a ton of
exposure. For decades, the Blackhawks were Chicago’s red-headed
stepchild because so few people ever got to see them play.

And their current media relations policies are going to send them
right back in that direction. Wirtz believed putting games on television
would be unfair to his “season reservation holders.” And his statement
showed why he was one of the worst owners in the history of professional
sports.

Back to baseball, a sport some people actually care about in Chicago. Well, lots of people cared about hockey this past summer, but let’s see how long that lasts.

MLB is thoroughly shooting themselves out of the air in the long run due to their “YouTube is a no fly zone policy.”

As Walterbach puts it:

It would be great if they made partial highlights available on
YouTube (and possibly disable embedding to cover themselves on the
copyright front) on their own MLB channel there to supplement highlights
available at MLB.com.  The supplemental highlights could include more
plays, player/manager interviews after the game, and maybe recaps by
the team broadcasters.  I think that could be a great way to drive more
traffic to MLB.com or affiliated team sites, yet still grow the brand
by keeping some sort of presence on YouTube.

In my opinion, FREE drives brand growth on the internet.  The
more free material your customers can get, the more likely it is they
will be driven to some sort of purchase down the road and become life
long customers.  Don’t get me wrong, I think their online strategy is
decent in driving revenue, but I believe MLB is not seeing the forest
of larger revenue streams through the trees of their paid content and
constant pulling down of videos on YouTube.

Don’t count on them ever waking up any time soon though. Their
current policies are dumber than the idea of having the All-Star game
determine World Series home field advantage. And don’t expect that to
change any time soon.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net. He doesn’t have a real nickname, but he is also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

He does a weekly radio segment on Chicagoland Sports Radio.com and Cleveland.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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