Farewell to another free lunch...
March 27, 2001 4:50 PM   Subscribe

Farewell to another free lunch... Streamed baseball radio is an interesting microcosm of the web's development. It started with a few forward-looking local stations taking the initiative and unilaterally offering a live stream; then it went under the auspices of Broadcast.com; now RealNetworks and MLB Inc. have tied up the subscription deal. A touchstone for other online content?
posted by holgate (14 comments total)
You'd think that, as a Brit, this wouldn't bother me. But as someone who managed to tune into Armed Forces radio in the pre-Web days, finding the odd local station with a baseball stream was quite something: it's an oddly soothing backdrop for insomniacs like me, all in-jokes and trivia, a charmingly parochial kind of thing. And while $9.95 for the season isn't too much to pay, it sets the precedent for later pay-per-listen stuff. $20 for the playoffs? $25 for the World Series?

It was inevitable, of course. But it's not as if these local stations don't already saturate their commentary with commercials, and Broadcast.com's packaging added a few of their own... but a sign that the days of innovation are giving way to central control and consolidation.
posted by holgate at 4:56 PM on March 27, 2001

The $9.95 should guarantee a good stream. If I could only get them to stream pre-season Redskins games. Yes, I am that big a fan...
posted by owillis at 4:59 PM on March 27, 2001

That's my hope, owillis: it'll be interesting to see the Terms and Conditions of the season pass. After all, once money changes hands, you're buying a service, and can have greater expectations (or make greater demands) towards the service provider: we've talked about this wrt/ Blogger plenty of times.

(I've never really had much problem getting a baseball stream, actually, even during the post-season. The advantage of a mono, AM broadcast, I suppose: you can get decent results for not much bandwidth.)

And I hope, at least, that some of that $20million goes into the pockets of the people who thought it would be cool to use live streaming a few years ago. Because it was such a classic case of the bottom-up development that the web does well: the "coolness" of a local producer getting thank-you emails from across the globe so obviously preceded the kind of stultefying business projections that would have happened had the MLB considered it in 1997.
posted by holgate at 5:21 PM on March 27, 2001

Interesting "full circle moment": The first stream was broadcast on September 5th, 1995 by Progressive Networks in an alpha test of their new streaming product RealAudio. It featured the play by play for a baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Seattle Mariners. Six years later, MLB decides to give it up again and they give it to RealNetworks (formerly Progressive Networks).

Frankly, I couldn't be more excited. As a long-time, hard-core, third-generation (at least!) Yankee fan who does not live in New York, I'm psyched!
posted by fooljay at 5:23 PM on March 27, 2001

As a Mariners fan who lives in Seattle but can't get KIRO to come in at work, I'm not. I won't pay $9.95, even per season, to get the games. I'll just watch the web pages that update the current game state while at work, and listen on the regular radio when I'm not at work. Hmph. I'm annoyed.
posted by litlnemo at 5:38 PM on March 27, 2001

litlnemo: guess what's next to be no longer free...
posted by ParisParamus at 5:56 PM on March 27, 2001

I use goldpass (Real's $10/month subscription service) and while it's not perfect, it's pretty damn cool.

Now both the NBA and MLB are exclusive to RealNetworks. It's just a matter of time, Owillis.
posted by jragon at 7:23 PM on March 27, 2001

"Starting May 1, the league and RealNetworks plan to offer
customized video highlights of each game, with video archives of every pitch from every game."

Okay, now THAT is just too damn cool. Finally, someone is providing content I won't mind paying for. The only thing that beats listening to baseball on the radio is having every pitch at your fingertips. I'm pumped!
posted by apollo at 7:29 PM on March 27, 2001

If the NBA is exclusive to RealNetworks, does that mean that Mark Cuban is paying himself for coverage of the Mavericks? Talk about total media domination.
posted by holgate at 7:30 PM on March 27, 2001

But as someone who managed to tune into Armed Forces radio in the pre-Web days...

AFRTS came back on the air a few months ago! They decided it would be a waste of money to put satellite receiving equipment on every single ship out there, so they went back to shortwave. Check out the frequency list (all USB) and the schedule.

And speaking of actual radio, most baseball teams with meaningful national followings are on 50,000-watt AM powerhouses that reach half the country at night. That's not going to change. Combine that with the fact that listening to far-off stations at night is just so damn cool, and that's a significant chunk of the potential audience gone right there. But then, there are a lot of total baseball fanatics out there...

BTW, does this mean radio stations will now be forced to take their live audio streams down whenever a baseball game is on?
posted by aaron at 8:28 PM on March 27, 2001

Mark Cuban's got nothing to do with Realnetworks. He owned Broadcast.com, sold that to Yahoo for $500 million - cashed out and bought the Mavs.
posted by owillis at 9:22 PM on March 27, 2001

standibus correctibus.
posted by holgate at 11:12 AM on March 28, 2001

Another side effect of this MLBization of all things baseball is that all of the clubs' sites are... well, the same. Only the names, logos, photos, and content have been changed to protect the innocent. Whereas the Cubs had a rather extensive site documenting things like the history of Wrigley Field, now you can find the same in a very generic, PR-happy format.

And I'm not even a Cubs fan!

I think it's kind of sad. While some standardization is nice, the sites had a bit more of a local flavor.

Funny: just yesterday I was thinking about how nice it'd be to listen to the Sox games when I'm at work, over the net. Not anymore. I'll bring in a radio instead.
posted by hijinx at 11:21 AM on March 28, 2001

Perhaps the standardization is to eliminate any website inequities generated by the small-market/big-market problems which plague baseball. You wouldn't want the Yankees to have this hella cool flash and splash site and the milwaukee brewers having something akin to Justin Hall's page. hehe, just kidding, Justin.
posted by fooljay at 11:38 AM on March 28, 2001

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