MLB Hits It Out of the Park Online

Homer Simpson once remarked that watching baseball without beer was really boring. That’s probably because he wasn’t watching the games online (d’oh!). We’ve written before about the success that Major League Baseball has had this year with its web video program, but BusinessWeek pulls the curtain back and provides a few more details.

There’s a team of 60 people at the Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) operation who watch games all day and create clips (using custom editing software) that are sent out to the Internet and mobile phones. The group sends out roughly 200 highlights a day. And the amount of stats the company pumps out could make even the most stats-addled, die-hard fan’s head spin.

The Advanced Media group is responsible for about $450 million of MLB’s $6 billion in revenues. Roughly half of that $450 million comes from fans who shell out $120 a season to access games; the rest comes from advertising. Yahoo is already handling video ad sales for MLB.TV, and MLB just signed a deal to stream live games on and ESPN Mobile TV.

But the real lesson to be learned from baseball’s foray into both online and mobile content offerings is that such moves have not cannibalized its existing businesses. To the contrary. Bob Bowman, CEO of MLBAM told BusinessWeek:

“Rights fees are up, attendance is up, viewership is up… Somehow the strategy of putting [baseball games] on every device that has a plug or a battery has worked for the business partners. Even more important, it’s worked for our fans.”

Too bad Bowman wasn’t running NBC’s online Olympics efforts. Now all he needs to do is figure out how to distribute Budweiser online.