I’m a cord cutter, there are no two ways about that. It’s the year 2019 and I see no reason to be tied to any sort of television package anymore. I cut the cord a few years back, and honestly, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not only am I saving money, lots of money, but I get the same content as before and have cut out most of the clutter. I don’t care if you’re pitching me cable or satellite. I. Am. Not. Interested.
There are plenty of streaming services that cover professional baseball. I subscribe to a number of them and I still want more. My longheld belief has been that there should be a streaming service that is centralized for independent and foreign leagues (the smaller foreign leagues to be exact.) Such a service would serve any number of functions, ranging from scouting to entertainment. It would serve a niche audience, but there would be more than enough interest to make the service viable.
Obviously, certain leagues would never be a part of such a centralized service. Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, Nippon Professional Baseball, and the Korean Baseball Organization have no reason whatsoever to seek involvement with such a service. I would love for even one of those leagues to do as such, but I know they won’t. I could see either the Chinese Professional Baseball League or Australian Baseball League joining a centralized streaming service. They could use the international exposure, and especially in the case of the ABL, would welcome any additional eyeballs on their league. Those other leagues, they just aren’t happening because they already have profitable streaming services, or in the case of the KBO/NPB will have their own someday, more likely than not.
The most obvious obstacle would be getting the various leagues to work together. What’s the piece of the pie going to be for the Atlantic League versus Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente? Should a league with better production value get more money? What are the chances that one league gets mad that a league they consider a rival is getting what they believe to be more promotion on the service? If a league is getting paid, how are they dividing that money up among their member franchises? These are all issues that will probably occur and would make keeping the service running very difficult.
A bigger obstacle than league cooperation would be league availability. Take the Atlantic League for example. There are ALPB games available on YouTube, but they appear to be uploaded not by the league but by individual teams. These uploads are erratic, and far more games remain unseen by any camera than end up being broadcast through any method. There’s a chance that even a larger league like the ALPB could join a centralized service and end up offering less than 30 games all year long. They wouldn’t be alone, and some leagues may only be able to offer a handful of games a year.
The last paragraph belies why I think a centralized streaming service would succeed; there’s a limited amount of baseball that even the most ardent baseball fan can watch. If a service ended up with 8 member leagues and on a given day they offered anywhere from 4-7 games; that would be enough I think. That number offers enough variety and enough general content to keep baseball-starved fans happy. I may be a huge baseball fan, but that doesn’t mean I can sit around all day and watch all the services previously mentioned plus a new centralized service of non-affiliated leagues. However, if I knew that service was offering 4-7 games a day from various leagues I could tune in and watch either a whole game or flip through some games and feel like my money had been well spent.
Another obstacle would be technology. A game may be filmed for live TV broadcast or a later presentation on YouTube. That’s not the same as streaming a game live. That takes a certain investment from the league, and I’m not sure if the leagues that would be in a centralized service would feel that such an investment would be worth their time. I’m not even sure they would find an investment like this to be financially feasible. It would keep some leagues out, that’s a given. In the end, enough leagues would be willing to make the investment, all it would take is convincing them that a centralized service would help them to make more money than they would have to invest.
Baseball fans represent the final obstacle, but also the reason why a centralized unaffiliated streaming service would succeed. A service like this would not be for the casual fan, although if any causal fans decide to purchase the service that would be more than welcome. No, this service is for the diehard baseball fan, the one who can’t get enough and recognizes that baseball is more than just MLB. For a centralized service to succeed they’d need to get the baseball junkies like me on board. Working off of this issue would be the idea of the skill level of the leagues involved. The service would need to be marketed as offering skilled baseball that isn’t on MLB’s level. If that can be done and the service can appeal broadly then it will succeed.
A centralized service like the one proposed in this article is dependent on a lot of things, but mainly it’s dependent on interest. Would there be enough interest in a service that doesn’t broadcast any of the bigger leagues? I think there would be because I think people the world over still have a deep interest in baseball beyond just the big boys. A big factor here would be getting a league like the ABL or CPBL to join because that would make the service more welcoming to baseball junkies outside of the Americas. That would make this service feel global and provide a broader level of interest.
Maybe I’m a hopeless baseball romantic. I possibly love the game too much and am letting that cloud the amount of interest there would be in a service such as this. All I know is that I would love to fire up a centralized service and be able to choose between watching a Long Island Ducks, Sydney Blue Sox, or Winnipeg Goldeyes game. Maybe that doesn’t appeal to everyone, but it appeals to me and one day I hope it appeals to enough baseball fans that it becomes a reality.
Lead photo courtesy of Joe Vella – SMP Images