MLB.com to broadcast Yanks in-market
Live local games to be aired over Internet in landmark deal
A week after launching a widely downloaded app that lets fans watch live games over an iPhone or iPod Touch mobile device for the first time, Major League Baseball continues its see-us-anywhere technology celebration with Wednesday's "historic" announcement of a pair of landmark in-market subscription products that will stream live games online, beginning in July.
These offerings include Yankees on YES, meaning fans in the Yankees' market will be able to watch live YES Network broadcasts of the Bronx Bombers' games live over a computer. The second in-market live game streaming product is expected to be announced next week, and MLB President and COO Bob DuPuy said in a conference call he expects more clubs to follow this season and then "we'll be up to a majority of the clubs" for 2010.
Upon launch, these will be the only live in-market streaming products in professional sports to include games with local broadcast television deals.
"These agreements are an important part of our global effort to give fans greater access to our game," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "It is important that fans in local markets have portable flexibility to stay connected to their favorite team if they can't be at the ballpark, and I believe this represents a significant step in that direction."
"It's an historic day for sports," said YES CEO Tracy Dolgin. "For the first time, old and new media are really meeting. It means more convenience and portability for all of our consumers. It's only appropriate that it is happening first for the most historic franchise in sports, the Yankees. ... Now, on this historic day, with the cooperation of the Yankees, Cablevision, YES Network, MLBAM, the YES Network has really broken a logjam by being the first team to introduce in-market streaming to what are the greatest fans in the world."
MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) has entered into a partnership with the YES Network and Cablevision to provide live YES Network Yankees telecasts to eligible Cablevision customers throughout the Yankees home broadcasting territory. The offering, which will be implemented through an authentication process managed by Cablevision and MLBAM, will be available to Cablevision customers who subscribe to the Family Cable (expanded basic) level of television service and Optimum Online.
The Yankees on YES package, available for a one-time fee of $49.95 for the remainder of the season, or for $19.95 for any 30-day period, is scheduled to launch at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, July 8, with the YES Network's Yankees-Twins broadcast from the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
"I'm sure Yankees fans will appreciate it," said Yankees captain Derek Jeter, who played in the historic 2002 game that marked the first live stream of a Major League Baseball video broadcast. "You see how they've always come out and supported us before this, and everywhere we go, there are people wearing Yankees gear. Anything that gives fans more access, it's a positive. I think it's great. I'm pretty sure more teams will follow."
Beginning immediately, eligible Cablevision subscribers can review frequently asked questions about the product and purchase Yankees via web pages accessible through YES at Yankees.com, YESNetwork.com and Optimum.net.
Bob Bowman, CEO of MLBAM, also called it an "historic day" and in discussing the "complex agreement" he thanked YES, the Yankees and Cablevision "for having the vision, the courage and the perseverance to get this deal done. There are a lot of interested parties here, a lot of important business models here that had to be respected and enhanced. But one thing we all did was put the fan first, to try and give him or her more choices and more options and recognize where we are in the technology world. This announcement today and the product launch of July 8 is proof positive. We're very excited and very grateful for all of the hard work of all of our partners in getting here today.
"This continues what has been a longstanding approach of baseball to make games available to its fans through electronic means, beginning way back when. I still remember when games were on radio, then broadcast TV, then cable TV, satellite TV, satellite radio, and MLBAM streaming games out of market in 2002, and then finally getting to where we are today in 2009 -- putting the fan first and giving him and her the most opportunity to see a ball game on the off chance they can't go to a ballpark. That has been an underpinning of baseball for the last several decades, I would say almost a century.
"The structure of this deal is an add-on feature to someone who's already a subscriber in the offline world to YES, to give them more opportunities and more portability, and it protects and enhances the existing economic relationship, which we think is important. ... We are hopeful at baseball and MLB.com that there will be more clubs, more RSNs, more MSOs that will join us in the 2009 season, and we look forward to making some of those announcements in the weeks ahead. ... The time is today and we're optimistic."
MLB, which in 2003 became the first sports league to broadcast live video of its full season over the Internet, has now made two major announcements within a week about breakthrough technology in the category of live-game streaming.
On the night of June 17, subscribers to the MLB.com At Bat 2009 app were able for the first time to watch live video of MLB games over their mobile devices, thanks to this free upgrade to the existing service. MLB.com At Bat 2009, available at $9.99 for the year, is the top paid app in iTunes' Sports area, and fans can watch up to two live games per day on an iPhone or iPod Touch until full daily schedules are made available soon.
YES's territory includes 7.5 million households around New York City, Long Island, much of New Jersey, the Hudson Valley, Connecticut and parts of Pennsylvania. Fans will be able to access Yankees on YES "anywhere within our YES territory," Dolgin said. So if you are a fan living in Westchester County, for example, and want to watch a Yankees day game while at work in Manhattan, you will be able to do so through authentication.
Cablevision was first because it is the largest cable operator in the YES footprint, but Dolgin said it's just a start and that talks are under way with Time Warner and others to extend this service.
"I just want to point out how excited we are," said Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees' managing general partner. "It's always been important to us, and always will be, to keep up with the latest technology out there. The new stadium is the latest example of that. We want to take advantage of what's out there -- particularly when they benefit our fans, as clearly this deal does. ... This is going to give our fans a variety of ways to view their games. . . . We're pretty sure our fans are going to be excited about these different options, and we're pretty sure a lot of fans are going to take advantage of it. I want to thank all the parties involved as well. It's been an interesting few months but we've accomplished a lot, and we look forward to the months and years to come."
Only one person will be able to use the account at any given time, and standard MLBAM procedures are used to require a subscriber to verify an account if it is detected that the account is frequently being accessed from different locations.
Fans have clamored for this kind of breakthrough for years now. Why has ground finally been broken on this key issue?
"It was the energy of YES and Cablevision, the support of the Yankees and the hard work of Bob Bowman and his staff," DuPuy said. "A lot of effort, discussion, and the agreement by the Commissioner -- he's committed to getting the game to our fans in portable fashion as well as television. This was RSN (regional sports network) and Cablevision-driven. As time and technology has evolved, as the ability to authenticate has become better, from a technology standpoint it was a combination of all those things that got us here today."
Dolgin said Cablevision and YES will heavily promote Yankees on YES. Examples on the YES Network will include: play-by-play announcer Michael Kay discussing it during game broadcasts to TV viewers, short ad spots to tell fans where to go to get it, and "we will even have short tutorials on the air to show you how to use it."
Dolgin and Bowman said the pricing was consistent with out-of-market MLB.TV services, and that in both cases the product exists primarily to follow one's own favorite team.
"Remember, fans aren't paying to get Yankee games," Dolgin said. "They're getting Yankee games. What they're paying for is the portability, the convenience, a great feature stack. They're paying to access it in a different way.
"They're going to be home, at office, sitting in front of computer. It's a huge benefit. Maybe they're sitting in their backyard watching their kids play baseball, and they're sitting there with a laptop. I don't think many people are going to make the choice sitting in their living room with a big 50-inch TV set. Also, Cablevision has built a great wi-fi network, with hotspots."
The media player for Yankees on YES and subsequent offerings will be similar but not identical to the MLB.TV player known to hundreds of thousands of subscribers worldwide. Bowman said the No. 1 strength of the in-market player will continue to be the high-def picture, which transformed the MLB.TV product at the start of this season. He said the player tracker, typically enjoyed by fantasy owners on MLB.TV's player, probably would not be included because "it makes less sense in-market." The Yankees on YES player will show Yankees games only.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Yankees reporter Bryan Hoch contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.