What is the most obvious takeaway from the return of Major League Baseball? People were more than ready to watch live sports. If they couldn’t scream from the stands, they were willing to do it from their computer.
Research tells us that in the first two weeks of the regular season, and despite a lengthy series of game postponements that are still being reconciled on the schedule, the league said it saw 1.3 million total unique users for its MLB.TV out-of-market streaming package. That is an 11% increase over the comparable period in 2019, which was a record.
Here are even more impressive numbers. The service also saw a record 12.8 million total games watched, up 12% from 2019, and up by 7% from the prior league record set in 2018.
And by the way, that’s just for the first two weeks.
Another key takeaway is that any sport that uses a live stream increases more than its fan range – it exponentially increases its marketability and therefore, its value.
In particular, to the youth and high school market.
An article in the Baltimore Sun noted, “With the coronavirus pandemic limiting play and prohibiting coaches from seeing potential recruits in person (along with conducting camps), players are making sure to take advantage of any time they are seen on the field while relying on other tools to get noticed.”
And while coaches have long used game tape and highlight videos to help evaluate potential recruits, these days, they are a primary source, rather than an adjunct to the scouting process.
Case in point: The annual Under Armour All-America high school boys and girls lacrosse games, put on by Corrigan Sports, used First Scout Productions, and passed the footage on to any interested college program free of charge.
First Scout president Jon Chastney noted that he had three crew members shooting on opening day with one camera focused on each game. In addition to sending game tape to coaches, the players can purchase tapes or have personal highlight videos produced by First Scout.
“Film has always been an important part of the college recruiting process, but never has it been the essential link between college coaches and athletes,” Chastney said.
“Our mission statement is to impact the world around us for good and help our clients achieve their goals through attention to detail and excellent quality service. So I feel this year we have a responsibility to do that even more. Every time we go out now, the kids know and the coaches know — everybody knows — those cameras may as well be the coaches’ eyes. So it’s definitely taken on a whole new meaning and, for us, we’re trying to be on point and just do a good job for the kids to help them get recruited.”
It's not just looking at events real time that is of value either. AAU Junior Nationals, the biggest youth event to be presented recently, worked with BallerTV to livestream events to parents and friends (who could not be present since the tournament was held without spectators). However, all games are still available in recorded form and can be accessed by coaches and athletic directors, as well as others who are interested.
Perhaps presciently, back in 2016, John Ourand of Sports Business Journal commented on the AAU’s agreement with FloSports to stream its Junior Olympic Games.
“It’s not a huge deal, like the one the Big Ten Conference is negotiating with big media companies,” noted Ourand. “But FloSports’ pact to live-stream 10 regional qualifier track meets this summer is one that piques my interest and shows how smaller rights holders can get distribution.”
While FloSports might have originally been in search of athletes and their parents to sign up and get subscriptions, it has become obvious that such arrangements not only benefit those who can’t see the games and want to cheer on athletes but those who stand the chance of moving those athletes to the next level.