YouTube and MLB have announced a deal in which the former will live stream 13 games during the second half of this season. They’ll be free games, available exclusively on YouTube (i.e. the games won’t be on any TV network or on MLB.tv). MLB and YouTube plan to announce which games will be streamed in the next few weeks.
Thirteen games isn’t a heck of a lot, but you have to wonder if this isn’t a test run for something grander down the road. Just as Facebook has been rumored to be doing its modest live stream of games as a possible runup to becoming a bidder on a more comprehensive broadcast rights package, perhaps YouTube is thinking about entering that world too. Indeed, they already have dipped a toe into Major League Soccer rights on a local level, so baseball does not seem like a stretch.
If anything gives me pause about this its the fact that the broadcasts will reportedly include “YouTube-themed content” which includes incorporating popular YouTube stars as part of the broadcasts. Which, as a parent of teenagers who spend a LOT of time on YouTube, makes me worry that the broadcasts will be damn nigh incomprehensible.
But that’s just the old man in me speaking. I’m mostly not too worried about this because (a) the production of the games themselves will be handled by MLB Network so camera work and sound and graphics and all of that should be pretty familiar; and (b) you can’t complain that MLB only cares about old white fans stuck in a previous era while simultaneously complaining about an effort to appeal to a different demographic. The fact is, a huge number of kids get most of their entertainment online, overwhelmingly from YouTube, so as long a the synergies aren’t embarrassing or overly distracting, it makes perfect sense for baseball to pursue them.
The proof, as always, will be in the quality of the broadcast.