Occasional readers of this blog may have noticed that I am a fan of baseball.
I’ve been meaning to write about baseball for a while, but not from a sporting perspective, but from a technological one.
For all the sport’s resistance about using technology to help make on field decisions, off-field it’s a different story. Baseball is a bit of an exemplar when it comes to using social and new media tools to reach its audience.
A few months ago I wrote about a blog post by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban where he mused over the possibility of sports organisations doing away with the media.
MLB tv shows that it yes, if sport really wanted to, it definitely can.
FLi – the British interactive company which operates the majority of the football club sites in the UK – can only currently dream of the kind of interactivity that MLB can deliver.
Though based in the UK, I can, if I’m willing (and able) to stump up £20+ per month – watch every match of the San Francisco Giants (or any other team on the MLB network). That’s 162 regular season games, as well as potential post-season play-off games.
On top of that I can access news streams, stats, watch plays again, click on video of individual game highlights while the game is in play. It’s like being able to watch match of the day while you’re still at the game. On top of this I can also use the At Bat app.
The free version, provides in-game pitch-by-pitch coverage, individual player stats and more. The paid for app – provides streamed video, radio on top.
Sport needs TV money, but as Mashable points out in this excellent post, the behaviour of sports fans means they’ll watch a broadcast on the biggest screen available.
Meaning TV companies don’t lose out on revenue or audience from a platform like MLB.tv I’m willing to bet that in the next five years, the way we consume and access online news about our favourite football teams in the UK will be a lot closer to the US model than it is now.
MLB have shown that control of content and expertise at delivery can result in large and lucrative audiences. I think European sport will be looking to replicate this kind of success.
It doesn’t just stop at TV coverage either. The aim of MLB’s tech arm is to deliver content to as wider audience as possible. – It’s doing that and more. On top of that the organisations are involved. The Giants use Twitter to promote everything from season tickets and merchandise to promotional events and tweetups. They use the channel spectacularly well. If a UK-based team wanted to know how to use social media, I would point them directly at the San Francisco Giants (probably any other baseball team too).
MLB have also realised that the future is mobile – smartphones and tablets aren’t going to go away, so MLB is designing services for these devices too. Each year At Bat has got smarter, added functionality and it’s a trend that’s going to continue. The Premier League and UK sport should take note.