NHL To Piggyback On MLB Advanced Media For An Actual Legitimate Streaming Option

from the finally dept

For quite a while now, some of us in the business of discussing digital business models and entertainment have suggested that the ongoing trend of cable-cord-cutting, which will eventually turn the cable TV business into something completely different than what it’s been for decades, would be best spurred on by better streaming sports options. What once seemed like a trickle of streaming adoption by sports leagues and broadcast partners has begun to turn into a river, with baseball and football looking to expand streaming options and some very serious web companies getting into the game as “broadcast” partners with major pro sports leagues.

It isn’t stopping. In fact, it’s only ramping up further. The NHL, the group with the lowest television revenue of the major sports leagues, and therefore the most to gain from streaming its product to expand the fan-base, just announced a deal with Major League Baseball to piggyback on the excellent MLB Advanced Media platform to stream NHL games.

The partnership will transform the fan experience by creating a fully integrated global hub of digital content that encompasses video, live game streaming, social media, fantasy, apps, along with statistical and analytical content. With an emphasis on deeper access into the game and telling the stories of NHL players, MLBAM and the NHL will collaborate on developing new digital products and platforms while enhancing current offerings.

The deal awards MLBAM rights to distribute live out-of-market games, including through the NHL GameCenter LIVE and NHL Center Ice subscription services in the United States and certain international markets. MLBAM will operate NHL.com, including the League’s seven native language sites, and Club websites. MLBAM will operate NHL apps and be available to develop apps for the Clubs. The NHL and MLBAM will partner on the design and development of new digital products and platforms. The NHL and its Clubs retain editorial control across all platforms. The Emmy-Award winning MLB Network will provide studio space and production resources for the NHL Network for distribution in the United States and certain international markets.

This works on so many different levels, it’s hard to know where to begin. First, any baseball fan, or really any sports fan, should be aware by now that MLBAM is the absolute gold standard in sports streaming. The price, the offering, the quality, the organization, the replays and the presence on new media is done amazingly well. If you’re a baseball fan and you don’t have MLB.TV, you clearly enjoy self-masochism in a way that I will never understand and may God have mercy on your soul. The NHL, in partnering with MLBAM, doesn’t need to create their own platform. They simply partner with the best in the business and go on doing what they do best: producing hockey games. Give up a little control, get back a ton of exposure and a platform that makes the game widely available throughout the country/world.

Which is exactly what some of us (ahem, me) said the NHL should have done immediately after the last lockout. The promise of streaming is a customer-base unimpeded by borders or geography, one where your best fans can access your product wherever you go. The NHL, more than any other league, needs this sorely. Now they have it in a package that almost inevitably will be better than the Center Ice streaming product, which, blech. The only question is going to be just how long is it going to take, how many smart TVs need to be sold, and just how wide does the high-speed broadband net have to be cast before the leagues realize the obvious conclusion they should be drawing from all of this: they don’t really need the broadcast partners anymore.

Notice the language that the NHL used in announcing this deal. MLBAM is the distribution channel for out-of-market games for the NHL. Today that means streaming the television broadcasts out of market. But also note that MLB has its own cable network and is its own broadcast partner for some games. Exactly how far is MLB away from partnering with MLB franchises to broadcast on its own station, where it can sell its own advertising, hire its own on-air talent, and all the rest? And if they can do that, they could simply stream the games as a priority and leave the television station on as an afterthought. They already know how to do this, through the MLB.TV service. Exactly what purpose are the TV stations filling that MLB can’t do on its own?

And if MLBAM wants to strike up deals with other sports leagues to be their broadcast partners on the web? Well, if you work at ESPN, you ought to be shaking in your shoes right about now.

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Companies: mlb, mlbam, nhl

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Comments on “NHL To Piggyback On MLB Advanced Media For An Actual Legitimate Streaming Option”

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ltlw0lf (profile) says:

If you’re a baseball fan and you don’t have MLB.TV, you clearly enjoy self-masochism in a way that I will never understand and may God have mercy on your soul.

I have MLB.TV (got it as part of the season ticket deal,) but I can never watch the games I want to watch due to blackouts (yes, I know, proxies FTW.) Once the industry realizes that penalizing their fans (with season tickets, none-the-less,) doesn’t win more fans. Note, you can’t watch MLB.TV to see games played by your home team away from your home field…which I see as the best selling point for MLB.TV for season ticket holders, so you can watch the game when it isn’t played at home.

MLB.TV is great if you live in San Diego and your favorite team isn’t playing the Padres (because everyone in San Diego loves any team other than the Padres, just watch the stands during any Padres Game and you’ll see that, at least until this year, most of the people in the stands came to watch the team playing against the Padres,) but it isn’t helpful for those who want to watch their team play in-market games.

What is absolutely criminal about this, is that they sell the hell out of MLB.TV as a way to see every game of your favorite team, but then they throw in the tiny disclaimer that MLB.TV is subject to local blackouts without telling you that the money you are paying means that you need to pick a team far away from your home market in order to enjoy most of the games (except the ones that are played in your home market.) It is only after you pay for the service that you realize that you can’t watch the games you want to watch and that $120 is gone, not refundable.

I certainly agree that had NHL dropped this crappy policy, they would have cleaned up…there are many just like me happy to throw down full price on MLB.TV to watch every game in baseball…not just the ones played elsewhere by teams we aren’t interested in watching.

Anonymous Coward says:

MLB.tv is no way the gold standard…

First MLB.TV use a back end of adobe flash, which even adobe says is unsecured and Firefox blocked them less than a month ago. If you read MLB.TV forms you could see how many people have game restart issues and games replays not being able to be watch the whole game.

Second MLB.tv leaves commercial breaks in their replays. with the old player just putting up a “This game is in commercial break” card, and in the new player are now playing ads, which can not be skipped once they start. Both the NHL and NFL remove the commercials from their replays. (this information is from last season, both are releasing new “products” for this upcoming season).

AC (profile) says:

MLB won't drop the TV stations

As much as I’d like streaming of local-market games, I just don’t see it happening. Not in any serious way. Maybe they let you log in with your cable credentials, or maybe you get to select a handful of games per year for when your favorite team happens to be in town, but wholesale dropping of local broadcast partners isn’t going to happen, and there’s one good reason why: Increasingly, those Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) are owned by the teams themselves.

Do the Yankees have any motivation to let MLB cannibalize the YES network? Their biggest revenue stream would dry up overnight. There might be a middle ground where there are two streaming tiers, one with local content and one without, where the local option has a higher fee that goes to the local team, but it’s incredibly unlikely that the team would give up a single dollar, so the fee would be at least as much as carrying the channel.

If this happens, it will be reactionary, not as part of a forward-thinking plan put forth by the savior of sports streaming.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: MLB won't drop the TV stations

Do the Yankees have any motivation to let MLB cannibalize the YES network? Their biggest revenue stream would dry up overnight.

Why would they need to cannibalize the YES network? All they need to do is pipe the YES network through their streaming network, the same way they currently do. Does the YES network own the cable infrastructure and actually run a cable company? If not, then why are they beholden to a cable company? Seems like they could sell their stream competitively to multiple cable companies and to MLB.TV. They are in a much better position than other teams that use cable company assets (Fox cameras, Fox announcers, etc.) to tape and stream the video.

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