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Major League Baseball is a major media company. As a collective unit, the thirty teams produce about as much content as any other outlet in the country. And as a whole, media companies are really struggling. Newspaper and magazine circulation rates are plummeting. Less and less people are watching television commercials. CD and DVD sales

In other words, almost all of the old business models are becoming obsolete. The companies that relied on them are being forced to change, as they look for new ways to monetize their content. Hulu is a great example of what can be created with new-world ideas and old-world resources.

MTV just launched a really cool site along these same lines. Imagine every music video ever made, all in one easy-to-use place, with a pretty high quality player. Here you go. (By the way, if imitation is the strongest form of flattery, Hulu should take this as a huge compliment.)

This site could be huge for MTV and Viacom. It’ll be easier to come here and know you can find the video you want, instead of going to YouTube and taking your chances. Not to mention how much better the quality is on MTV’s site. All clips are embeddable (see below), and there are easy links to share on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, among others.

I’ve said this too many times to even link to all of them: this is exactly what MLB.com should be doing. Open up the vault, and publish as much video as possible in a high quality format. Make the site easy to use, and the videos easy to share.

The reason MLB and the other sports leagues haven’t come around to this model yet is because they haven’t had to. The leagues have other more essential sources of income, like ticket sales, merchandise, and television contracts. Plus, live events are much less prone to being DVRed than a taped program, which is why advertisers and TV networks have flocked back to sports the past few years.

But if MLB and the others are going to maximize their media dollars in the long run, it is essential for them to accept and embrace this new paradigm. There is an incredible opportunity here, since being a first mover on the web can be such a huge advantage.

It may just be a matter of urgency, though, and MLB.com doesn’t seem to have it yet.

Bruce Springsteen |MTV Music

Feedback? Write a comment, or e-mail the author at shawn(AT)squawkingbaseball.com

5 Existing Comments

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  1. on October 28th at 08:23 pm
    Keith Law said:

    I still don’t see your argument. What’s the revenue model from free video?

  2. on October 29th at 07:00 am
    Drew B said:

    I think the business model is generating more eyeballs which theoretically leads to greater ad revenue I don’t see ads on the MTV site, so I don’t know what their business model is, but Hulu has pre-roll/post-roll and by all accounts, appears to be a success.

    MLB.tv digital product… the mosaic, the quality of the video, the bonus content… is as good an offering as anything available online. I just think the premium subscription price is a bit of a deterrent.

  3. on October 29th at 11:11 am
    Shawn said:


    Hulu is making millions of dollars from advertising. YouTube makes hundreds of millions, and would make billions if they could monetize all of their content (right now they only place ads next to “partner” content, as to not piss off copyright holders). Whatever MLB.com’s advertising revenue currently is, they could probably double it by expanding their video base and increasing quality/usability.

    But here’s the real beauty of MLB.com that I’ve written about before, especially relative to other sites: MLB has real, expensive, in-demand products to sell, unlike Hulu or YouTube or MTV Music. MLB’s main focus should be on selling these products. Increasing eyeballs and engagement on MLB.com (both on their sites and on other sites through embeds) could give a huge boost to MLB’s main businesses.

  4. on October 30th at 09:04 pm
    Keith Law said:

    Ad revenues are not strong right now, and the near-term project at least is weak. You’d have to demonstrate that ad revenues from a free-video model would exceed revenues from a pay model. Given the low pay-per-click rates out there, I’d be surprised if the math worked on that. In other words, yes, they might double their ad revenue, but they would lose subscription revenue.

    As for upselling to other products - I assume that’s merchandise and tickets - I don’t see how we could prove or disprove that notion. It could happen. It could also not happen, meaning MLB threw away a revenue stream for little return. One segment of MLB’s fanbase is very devoted and will pay for a number of products and services across the universe of options offered by MLB. Part of MLB’s strategy has to be to squeeze every last dollar they can from people who have demonstrated that they place a high utility on MLB products and services and have the disposable income to pay for them.

    NBA.com has made much or all of its video free, right? Do we know if that model has helped them upsell users to the products you’re talking about?

  5. on October 31st at 12:03 pm
    Shawn said:

    Part of this issue is that there really is no revenue stream from videos right now, aside from MLB.tv (which I probably wouldn’t change, at least at this point). Baseball’s Best is the subscription package on MLB.com, and its library isn’t even that impressive. Do you know anybody that subscribes to this? I don’t.

    But if they opened their vault, and published an enormous collection of old clips for free (like MTV and Hulu and Comedy Central and a bunch of others are doing), MLB could a) increase eyeballs and advertising on MLB.com, b) start a viral channel that could make people more interested in baseball.

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