With media rights an increasingly important part of the pro sports landscape, Minor League Baseball is entering a new phase by partnering with Octagon on a long-term media distribution strategy.
MiLB had been partnering with Major League Baseball on video rights, streamed via MiLB.tv, and TuneIn on audio rights. The goal with the Octagon partnership is to expand those media offerings past a limited set of offerings to other streaming companies, media firms and companies–like a Verizon or AT&T–that can perhaps include MiLB games as part of a value add. We’ve also heard from some owners who want to offer their own team games via streaming on the likes of a Roku subscription channel.
“The media landscape is evolving quickly. Content rules the day and serves as the hook to current and next-generation fans,” said David Wright, chief marketing and commercial officer of Minor League Baseball, in a press release. “We are committed to staying ahead of the content curve and investing in the necessary resources to best position MiLB to drive meaningful fan engagement and overall growth in a hyper-competitive space.”
“There is no U.S. sports property comparable to Minor League Baseball. With more than 6,700 games and 16,000 hours of live content annually available to fans, MiLB’s reach and live content breadth is in a league of its own,” said Daniel Cohen, Octagon SVP, Global Media Rights Consulting Division, in a press release. “We look forward to engaging with new media and technologies, to push the envelope on distribution and consumption that connects the next generation of fans with the stars of tomorrow playing in Minor League Baseball.”
“Our fans are the lifeblood of our organization, and we must reach them both in and outside of the ballpark in ways that enrich their experience, amplify memorable moments and capture MiLB’s unique spirit,” said Katie Davison, MiLB’s senior vice president of digital strategy & business development, in a press release. “Our vast network of teams, athletes and fans gives us immense storytelling potential, and we’re certain Octagon can help us bring these stories to life for fans and new audiences alike.”
Streaming and direct-to-consumer media sales has been a challenging marketplace as of late, with rapid change in the last year. On the high end, the streaming wars have exploded in the six months with the sale of Fox regional sports networks to Sinclair, the introduction of Disney+ and an expansion of both Hulu and ESPN+. ESPN+, especially as part of a Disney+/Hulu bundle, has partnered with a wide array of sports organizations, including MLS, USL Championship, USL League One, MLB, the Big 12 and more. The National Women’s Soccer League, also an Octagon client, has a media-rights deal with ESPN after working on short-term deals with Lifetime Networks and Yahoo! Sports. And, of course, there are plenty of local broadcast deals between MiLB teams and local cable outlets. This is still an industry in the earliest stages of creation.
On the one hand, MiLB has a pretty compelling selling point in terms of cumulative market coverage, with 81 percent of the nation’s population in an MiLB market. On the other hand, the presence of 170 teams–or 140, depending on how MLB’s contraction plans work out–makes for a potentially fragmented marketplace. Will customers subscribe to a MiLB-branded service to follow their Sod Poodles, or will they seek out game broadcasts on a more general service like ESPN+ or SiriusXM? With the marketplace still shaking out, however, this isn’t the worst time for a sports organization to be shopping media rights.
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