As baseball gears up for round two of the 2009 playoffs — the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers take the field tonight — we have the first peek at some stats you won’t see in box scores. Major League Baseball Advanced Media served an average of 350,000 live streams during each game in the first round of the 2009 baseball playoffs through its Postseason.TV subscription. The video split: 314,000 streams via PCs on MLB.com and 36,000 to iPhone/iTouch devices via the MLB At Bat app. (Another 88,000 live audio-only streams were delivered through MLB At Bat.) MLBAM tells us that live video per game average is more than double the amount served on Fox Feeds — for free — during the 2009 All-Star Game. For some context, MLBAM has sold about 1.5 million subscriptions overall this year: 1.1 million for live audio and video and roughly 420,000 apps.
To avoid competition with rights holders Turner Sports and Fox Sports, the blackout-free Postseason.TV subscription, included with the MLB At Bat app or sold separately for $9.95, doesn’t deliver a complete game experience; the networks are partnering with MLB.com on the package. Designed as a complement to the game, the subscription offers audio and multiple camera angles but none of the production frills. The fully produced games aren’t being live streamed. Some people haven’t been thrilled by the no-frills concept but it worked for me, possibly because I wasn’t expecting more.
We asked MLBAM for the numbers; they couldn’t deliver everything we wanted because of partner limitations but what we got shows a) that people will pay for variations of coverage and b) that they will watch on a small screen. It may be designed as a complement but for some of us on the go, it proved to be a tolerable primary video source. That clearly wasn’t the case for most people: TBS, which exclusive rights to the League Division series, had its best primetime week in 33 years. (Multichannel News has the cable details.)
That aspect of what MLBAM is doing this season couldn’t have been attempted last year, at least not with the iPhone app. The rest took the cooperation of Fox and Turner, including hosting the player on their sites and MLB.com. MLBAM’s Matthew Gould credits the introduction of live mobile streaming technology via iPhone “combined with the quick work our partners did to make a single product available across multiple platforms” for increasing the potential audience and for the “great fan response” so far.
With other multi-round events like March Madness or the more recent U.S. Open, live streaming is usually at its highest in the early rounds. Baseball might be a different story, though, particularly if the series are really tight — not sweeps like three of the four division match-ups — and especially if the New York Yankees make it past the Los Angeles Angels. There’s no way to tell how high the usage might be if AT&T’s 3G service had better, more consistent coverage.