Time For Sports Leagues To Embrace, Not Fight, Free Online Streams

from the don't-make-the-same-mistake... dept

We've noted recently the new focus on how online streaming is causing problems for sports leagues, who have gone running to politicians and the courts to demand they "do something." Over in The Guardian, Seth Freedman is pointing out that, as with many other parts of the entertainment industry, fighting against streaming is bound to fail, and a better solution is to get your content out there yourself in a way that you can actually monetize:
Sport, like music and mainstream media beforehand, has a stark choice before its governing bodies. If they remain resolute in their determination to follow old-school methods of disseminating their product, they will quickly drown under the deluge of fraudsters and pirates all too eager to capitalise on their mistakes. On the other hand, if they realise that they have to adapt to financially survive, they need to move fast to prevent a potentially catastrophic loss of income.
He notes that at least some leagues have figured this out:
The Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket games are broadcast live and free via YouTube, effectively heading off at the pass any rogue broadcasters seeking to steal their feed for themselves. The IPL authorities have a guaranteed income from their YouTube deal and, with a dedicated millions-strong audience subscribing to their feed, advertisers know how many people they can reach via the stream and how much each commercial slot is worth.
But, of course, others have not:
Yet with all the signs pointing to a brave new world of online broadcasting, the industry dinosaurs continue plodding along the road to extinction. Premier League enforcers boast of their success in shutting down a handful of illegal feeds, but most online sports piracy goes unpunished. With mobile phones providing yet another alternative to television in the race for audiences, there is even more pressure on rights owners to be proactive rather than simply shut the stable door behind the bolting horse.
In the end, it's difficult to see how any sports league thinks it makes sense to spend all this effort trying to fight against giving people what they want, when there are plenty of easy and lucrative ways to monetize such demand directly. It's too bad that so many leagues are slow to realize this.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2010 @ 6:25am

    as an mba, you would know mike that you have to make a true business case for it, not just some heart felt "you gotta". online streaming would very likely lower the fees or contract rate for local tv, radio, and such (another competitor in the field). so the online feed would have to generate enough new money net to make up for what would be lost there. increased ticket sales are only possible for teams not already selling out their events, and that same thing would happen with radio and tv already.

    basically, without a dollars and cents business case, it isnt likely to fly.

     

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  2.  
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    Berenerd (profile), Jun 28th, 2010 @ 6:33am

    lets take the NFL...

    Offer the games online so you can watch you favorite team, offer commercials for a premium or no commerials for a price. I bet you they would make a killing. They could test it on preseason games, to check network strength and then BAM!

     

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  3.  
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    out_of_the_blue, Jun 28th, 2010 @ 6:37am

    Isn't any money in sports *except* by monopoly.

    Playing games doesn't actually produce anything, yet many entertainers get a good income from doing so because large numbers of lethargic dolts will pay to watch -- instead of *doing*. Take away the premise of "scarcity" by free broadcast, and I don't see how the whole arena survives.

    Your notion of "monetize" means "re-distribute" from many to few. In the old days getting rich meant producing something of value and trading it -- by way of tokens which *represent* accomplished labor -- with other producers. But now few actually *make* money in terms of adding value to society, instead the way to riches is to *tap* existing stores (of supposed value), somehow scrape mere numbers from computerized accounts. Those who actually produce *things* or at least do useful services are increasingly at a disadvantage to those who entertain with sheer fantasies -- such as that it matters which "team" wins a childish game.

    In sum, I doubt that civilization is going to withstand the shift from the majority of people producing goods to idle luxury, or even just the part of the increasing police state that results from efforts of these entertainers to maintain easy lives with ridiculous incomes.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2010 @ 6:38am

    Re:

    Man, if only advertisers plastered every flat surface in every sporting arena with ads and logos.

    In other words, it is impossible to watch sports and not be blasted by ads non-stop.

    Although still kind of off, ads as a business model is better than no business model. There's your money.

     

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  5.  
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    Richard (profile), Jun 28th, 2010 @ 6:47am

    Re:

    If you look at the English Premier league (Football) you will see that most of the revenue goes straight into players salaries - and the players are vastly overpaid (some are paid in a week what the prime minister earns in a year) - arguably one of the reasons why the England team failed so miserably at the World Cup and the players have a reputation for misbehaving at nightclubs etc.

    What the Premier league needs desperately is less revenue.

     

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  6.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 28th, 2010 @ 6:54am

    Re:

    Why don't we just start with the way CBS handled March Madness and go from there? They did a MASTERFUL job streaming the games on THEIR site and promoting that streaming. The result?

    An EXPANDED television contract and tournement due to increased brand/product awareness.

    That's the business case/plan....

     

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  7.  
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    Yogi, Jun 28th, 2010 @ 7:03am

    No biggie

    Really, what's the problem?

    People are getting used to having everything on their pc, including their favorite shows, and this is especially true for this demographic.

    Also, not everybody has a tv or wants one - why can't those people be served too? What about people with one tv set - why can't the other significant person watch his game on the net?

    Actually Mike - American leagues are very good about this - MLB, NBA and NFL offer live games through the internet at very reasonable prices and the feeds are good too, except perhaps for the NFL.

     

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  8.  
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    WammerJammer (profile), Jun 28th, 2010 @ 7:10am

    I quote "The IPL authorities have a guaranteed income from their YouTube deal and, with a dedicated millions-strong audience subscribing to their feed, advertisers know how many people they can reach via the stream and how much each commercial slot is worth."
    Since when is YouTube pay-per-view?? Anyone clarify that?

     

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  9.  
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    Drewdad (profile), Jun 28th, 2010 @ 7:30am

    Re:

    The thing you're forgetting in your "true business case" is that you have to pay money to fight the unauthorized video streams. Avoiding going down that road is worth a great deal of money in and of itself, since it is doomed to failure.

     

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  10.  
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    drewdad (profile), Jun 28th, 2010 @ 7:36am

    Re: Youtube

    I assumed that the IPL was getting advertising revenue, and they were measuring the number of eyeballs on the youtube stream to set the price for the advertising.

     

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  11.  
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    Richard (profile), Jun 28th, 2010 @ 7:39am

    Re:

    "The IPL authorities have a guaranteed income from their YouTube deal and, with a dedicated millions-strong audience subscribing to their feed, advertisers know how many people they can reach via the stream and how much each commercial slot is worth."

    Read the preceding sentence and you will see that it is not pay per view it is free - Youtube makes money from the Ads and passes some on to the IPL.

    In India the Youtube feed has a five minute delay - presumably to maintain value for the domestic broadcast deal.

     

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  12.  
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    Common Sense, Jun 28th, 2010 @ 7:45am

    Re:

    Mike doesn't really need to waste his time spelling out the business case letter by letter for you. He's already done so quite well to anyone willing to think for a second...

    "...all the signs pointing to a brave new world of online broadcasting..."
    "...mobile phones providing yet another alternative to television in the race for audiences..."
    "...If they remain resolute in their determination to follow old-school methods of disseminating their product, they will quickly drown under the deluge of fraudsters and pirates all too eager to capitalise on their mistakes...."

    That's the business case plain and simple. If they don't put their own product out there in ways that people want to see it, then someone else will, and the leagues will lose out on all that potential money. I could probably think of a dozen ways to explain this at this point...

    If there are a hundred people interested in watching the game, and only 50 of them have access to a television, would it ever make sense to tell half the crowd that they are S.O.L.?? Because, remember this is 2010 now, those 50 people will turn around and say "we should be able to watch this online!!!" And someone will respond with www.thepiratebay.org or something of the like.

    In the free market system, it's not the suppliers that are in control, it's the consumers, and the markets that they make.

     

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  13.  
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    Common Sense, Jun 28th, 2010 @ 8:27am

    Re: Re:

    About 'fighting the unauthorized streams' Drewdad, you're absolutely wrong. What's that old saying...'the best defense is a good offense'? Basically, if your official product is really good, people have no reason to go somewhere else. If you use the official site, you don't have to search for an unauthorized one, which means they don't build up the popularity of something like the pirate bay, and they don't end up making money, eventually fading into nothingness...

    They'll have to spend a lot of money protecting themselves from unauthorized streams, but the best way to do that is to spend all that money on making the best product out there.

     

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  14.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 28th, 2010 @ 8:41am

    Re: Re: Re:

    How about it? What if each major movie publisher set up a streaming netflix style page on their own website and offered unlimited access for $10-$20/month? With a stable, malware-less, high quality stream? How many people would sign up for that? It would have to be in the hundreds of thousands at the very least....

     

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  15.  
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    DocMenach (profile), Jun 28th, 2010 @ 9:22am

    Re: No biggie

    American leagues are very good about this - MLB, NBA and NFL offer live games through the internet at very reasonable prices and the feeds are good too, except perhaps for the NFL.

    Really? You consider paying $100 per season for access to only the non-televised NBA games, and no chance of watching the playoffs or finals to be a good option? I think I'll keep using my free streams with none of those silly limits.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2010 @ 10:15am

    Re: Re:

    "Man, if only advertisers plastered every flat surface in every sporting arena with ads and logos." - they do anyway. however, you are ignoring the simple fact that tv and radio stations in market are paying for exclusive broadcast rights for the games. there would be little positive impact on the price of "in arena" advertising, but there would likely be a significant decrease in broadcast rights revenues if they were no longer exclusive.

    the better idea is for broadcasters to obtain rights that include permission to stream online, and let them move forward with their business models. this is not a sports team business model, as much a a broadcaster business model issue.

     

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  17.  
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    PRMan, Jun 28th, 2010 @ 11:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I might do it for $10. I certainly wouldn't for $20.

    Sounds like a great idea, though.

     

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  18.  
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    Richard (profile), Jun 28th, 2010 @ 11:16am

    Re:

    you have to make a true business case for it,

    Sport is not a business. The purpose of a sporting organisation is not to make money - rather it is to promote their sport. The purpose of the professional leagues is to attract people to play the sport at a lower level.

    Of course it is sometime useful if the professional league makes money - but that is not an end in itself. Having the sport freely watchable by all will bring benefits in terms of interest in the sport and that is what really matters.

    The fact that you think otherwise just shows how twisted your thinking is.

    Of course some will try to run individual clubs as a business - but they cannot compete with those that just want to win at any cost - as this year's Premiership demonstrates with clubs run by American businessmen in decline (Man Utd, Liverpool) and clubs run at a loss by Billionaires (Chelsea, Man City) on the up.

     

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  19.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 28th, 2010 @ 11:29am

    Re: Re:

    "The purpose of a sporting organisation is not to make money"

    ....you're kidding, right? Professional sports organizations are more business than sport, actually. Whether or not they should be is another matter. But Major League Baseball exists for the sole purpose of making money, not promoting baseball....

     

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  20.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Jun 28th, 2010 @ 11:46am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I'd rather watch a movie on my tv, and not on a laptop screen, so offer a download or a webstream that can work on boxes like Boxee and Popcorn Hour, and you have my money too.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2010 @ 11:59am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Broadcasting? Like on television? Isn't everything online yet?

     

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  22.  
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    Richard (profile), Jun 28th, 2010 @ 1:28pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    But Major League Baseball exists for the sole purpose of making money, not promoting baseball....

    Which explains why no one outside the US gives a monkeys about baseball.

    Compare the Mission Statement of the Scottish Football league:

    http://www.scottishfootballleague.com/thesfl/mission-statement/

    Making money of commercial exploitation comes at the bottom of the list - and must not prejudice the main objective which is:

    " to promote and extend the game of Association Football "

     

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  23.  
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    Richard (profile), Jun 28th, 2010 @ 1:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    and if I was in charge of promoting baseball internationally I would currently be looking at what the IPL is doing - and I would be VERY AFRAID.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2010 @ 2:03pm

    Re: lets take the NFL...

    Offer the games online so you can watch you favorite team, offer commercials for a premium or no commerials for a price.


    And parasites would just stream the no-commercial feed.

    Try again.

     

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  25.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 28th, 2010 @ 2:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Okay, I generally agree with you, but I can't let this whopper go:

    "Which explains why no one outside the US gives a monkeys about baseball."

    Bwah???!!! Baseball is an incredibly popular sport throughout the Americas. It's the 2nd most popular sport in a vast majority of the Latin America countries (2nd to futbol of course), and it ranks 3rd in Canada (behind hockey and football). It's also wildly popular in Japan and South Korea. It has less a hold over Europe, though it is fairly popular in Italy and the Netherlands.

    Most lists rank baseball as the 4th most popular sport in the world, behind Soccer, Cricket, and Basketball; and ahead of Rugby, Hockey, American Football, etc.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2010 @ 2:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    How about it? What if each major movie publisher set up a streaming netflix style page on their own website and offered unlimited access for $10-$20/month? With a stable, malware-less, high quality stream? How many people would sign up for that? It would have to be in the hundreds of thousands at the very least....


    And then parasites would set up their own unauthorized streaming sites offering the exact same content with no access fee, happy to make a smaller, but still substantial amount of money from ads (since they didn't have to pay a penny for their content). They would also aggregate all the different "major movie publisher's" content into a single unauthorized service making it even more convenient than the legitimate channels ever could be.

    Try again.

     

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  27.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 28th, 2010 @ 2:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    And they would do all that before most people were sucked into the original awesomeness of the streaming site for such a low price? You mean you think MOST people wouldn't pay for this legitimate online access for $10-$20 a month?

    Because if that's what you think, methinks you're crazy....

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2010 @ 3:54pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    No I don't think most people would pay $10-20 a month for unlimited streaming access to say, Paramount's film library when some parasitic 3rd party is streaming the collected libraries of Fox, Warner Brothers, MGM, Disney, Sony, Universal etc AND paramount for free.

    I can already hear the peanut gallery doing the math on the small fortune they'd have to spend subscribing to all these company's sites "just" to have access to every new movie that comes out and then using that figure to justify not paying for any of it (while still enjoying all of it, of course).

    There are inherent and I think unassailable advantages for the illegitimate aggregator over actual content producers in the realm of online streaming; especially in the copyright-free utopia so many of the readers here seem to pine for...

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2010 @ 4:50pm

    Re: Re: lets take the NFL...

    Right...that would kill their network.

    Torrents is one thing since they are mostly "static" (they don't change over time and if they are good now, they are good forever...you don't mind waiting for a few days to get one). But Live feeds are only useful if they are, you know, live.

    I assume that football is a big thing in America? That would certainly mean that millions of people would love to watch the game Live. Can you imagine the pounding the pirate's servers would take when millions (or even thousands) of people accessed it? No two-bite pirate could survive the flood in his network. The stream would come out choppy.

    I know some people would be happy with that, but I think the majority of people would pay for a seamless HD experience and the NFL could make it more attractive by providing other features like, I dunno, live stats, switching between cameras, commentaries in various languages (that you can switch) or switching commentaries off entirely (I would pay for that), a live chat section and...uh... I can't think of anything else right now...I'm not much into sports and I certainly don't know much about football (unless you mean the "other" one).

    So they COULD make it profitable if they came up with good ideas.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2010 @ 7:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Perhaps they shouldn't be relying on selling something so easily copyable, then.

    But that would require effort. Oops.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2010 @ 9:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Perhaps they shouldn't be relying on selling something so easily copyable, then.


    Okay, what should the movie studios rely on, if not easily-copyable movies? What exactly are you suggesting they focus on instead?

     

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  32.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 28th, 2010 @ 11:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Okay, what should the movie studios rely on, if not easily-copyable movies? What exactly are you suggesting they focus on instead

    Thing is, the movie studios have *never* really relied on selling the thing that is easily copyable. Instead, they've always sold the scarcities: tickets to seats in theaters and (after a long and bloody fight against it) physical goods like VHS tapes and DVDs.

    That you still don't understand this after all these years perhaps explains why you keep lashing out on this site every time people explain it to you. I hope, for all your claims of being heavily involved in Hollywood, that you're nowhere near management.

     

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  33.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Jun 29th, 2010 @ 3:49am

    Re: Re: lets take the NFL...

    And that's the reason for not doing it?

    Sure there will be people who want stuff for free, with or without ads... but don't let them (a minority) stop you from doing this.

    You could also look into offering exclusive material for the paying customers, stuff that isn't so easily copied. Such as behind-the-scenes looks, extra fan material.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Common Sense, Jun 29th, 2010 @ 6:53am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You're starting to get it now I think! This is exactly the approach you should be taking. Let me just recap to make sure you understand what you're doing:
    1. Think of an awesome plan like offering all the programming online for a subscription fee.
    2. Think of all the ways people could cut in and undermine your business (because the only way they could really do that is if their business was somehow better than yours). and then...
    3. Beat them to it and improve upon your already great business in order to keep your customers happy.

    I think you might also find that process called "innovation" by some people...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 29th, 2010 @ 11:47am

    Re: Re: lets take the NFL...

    Thank you for admitting that the industry is incapable of offering any compelling offering.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
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    Richard (profile), Jun 29th, 2010 @ 1:22pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    OK - I was exaggerating for effect - but when you consider how effective American culture has been at colonising the world it seems surprising that American Sport has failed to make anything like a similar impact.

    I do find it amusing however that the one country that has really taken up baseball - to the point of being capable of beating the US is Cuba...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 29th, 2010 @ 1:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Cuba is huge, yes, but I'd lump the Dominican Republic in with them as well (though in truth, DR only has baseball because of Cuban immigrants anyway)....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Generic Cialis, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 2:46pm

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  39.  
    identicon
    Generic Cialis, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 2:46pm

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    I am really surprised about the excellent job that you have made in this blog, which contains very important and amazing content about Time For Sports Leagues To Embrace, Not Fight, Free Online Streams, it allows everyone to express a variety of opinions.

     

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