MLB Killing Itself with Clueless and Backward Internet Media Policy


There’s a reason you see so many Cialis and Viagra commercials during Major League Baseball telecasts- it’s pretty much the only demographic they have left!

MLB is dying among the youth crowd for one simple reason: it’s failure to join the rest of the 20th century when it comes to coexisting with internet media.

I hate the term “new media,” or even “internet media” for that matter, because the web is the only medium growing while every other medium is dwindling or dying out. Yet baseball still has a clause in their collective bargaining agreement prohibiting media access for representatives of web sites or blogs. Why? Because they don’t want any video highlights of any game getting posted anywhere other than the prescription service they want you to purchase. They also want their site to be the ONLY source of internet coverage.

Take a look at page 205 of the CBA, (which would actually be page 217 in this pdf) which discusses club media regulations. You’ll notice the very first point mentions “press, radio and television” and absolutely nothing about the world wide web.

Pretty much sums it up. But here’s how it affects you the fan, and kills their own product in the process:

As any internet user has noticed, Google and YouTube are in bed with each other. And that’s the #1 and #3 highest traffic sites in the world. However, MLB pulls every video it can off YouTube, claiming copyright infringement under the usage rights of MLB Advanced Media. Have you ever heard a more inaptly named firm than “MLB Advanced Media?” They’re so effing regressive that it’s laughable. It’s like the infamous Healthy Forest Initiative or Clear Skies Act.

For an audio discussion on these issues and more go here.

Anyways, here’s the gist of it from our friend Chris Walterbach’s blog:

I tried to view a video that was a highlight of a recent Minnesota Twins game.  Well, unfortunately for me, the video was taken down by Major League Baseball (MLB) for copyright violation.  I continued to search for other relevant baseball highlights and came up empty.  I couldn’t find any broadcast highlights of the Red Sox 2004 World Series run.  Nothing from the Yankees’ clinching game 6 victory in this past year’s World Series.

What is the point of this “strategy?”  I understand why they may want to keep highlights of a recently played game as copyrighted material in hopes to drive web traffic to the team websites, the MLB Network, or MLB.TV.  One would think the league would want to have as many highlights on YouTube to continue growth of their very well known brand.  Perhaps MLB’s marketers or crack legal team know their target audience doesn’t go to YouTube for their baseball highlights.  If that’s the case, I would dispute that with this research I found by ESPN that shows most sports fans are in the 18-34 age demographic and are male.  Fairly obvious, right? Oh, and at the bottom of the page it mentions that “68% of Avid Sports Fans used the Internet in the past 30 days.”  Oops!

The only precedent that comes to mind is the late Bill Wirtz, the former Chicago Blackhawks owner who refused to let any of his home games be televised. His retarded line of thinking cost the team millions and millions of dollars, and more importantly (although impossible to quantify) a ton of exposure. For decades, the Blackhawks were Chicago’s red-headed stepchild because so few people ever got to see them play.

And their current media relations policies are going to send them right back in that direction. (But that’s another story for another time). Wirtz believed putting games on television would be unfair to his “season reservation holders.” And his statement showed why he was one of the worst owners in the history of professional sports.

Back to baseball, a sport some people actually care about in Chicago. Well, lots of people cared about hockey this past summer, but let’s see how long that lasts.

MLB is thoroughly shooting themselves out of the air in the long run due to their “YouTube is a no fly zone policy.”

As Walterbach puts it:

It would be great if they made partial highlights available on YouTube (and possibly disable embedding to cover themselves on the copyright front) on their own MLB channel there to supplement highlights available at  The supplemental highlights could include more plays, player/manager interviews after the game, and maybe recaps by the team broadcasters.  I think that could be a great way to drive more traffic to or affiliated team sites, yet still grow the brand by keeping some sort of presence on YouTube.

In my opinion, FREE drives brand growth on the internet.  The more free material your customers can get, the more likely it is they will be driven to some sort of purchase down the road and become life long customers.  Don’t get me wrong, I think their online strategy is decent in driving revenue, but I believe MLB is not seeing the forest of larger revenue streams through the trees of their paid content and constant pulling down of videos on YouTube.

Don’t count on them ever waking up any time soon though. Their current policies are dumber than the idea of having the All-Star game determine World Series home field advantage. And don’t expect that to change any time soon either.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports He doesn’t have a real nickname, but he is also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter, Yardbarker Network, and Fox

He does a weekly radio segment on Chicagoland Sports and

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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