For years, the NBA has been at the forefront of digital fan engagement. From making highlights and advanced statistics easily accessible to fans everywhere, to a digitally-focused broadcast package and the constant activity around #NBATwitter, it’s the gold standard for U.S. sports leagues that want to empower fans to share their product.
This has some side effects too, of course. A highlight-driven fan base potentially spends more time online watching clips of games than the games themselves. That has the potential to hurt the value of game inventory for advertisers, however, it’s a worthwhile risk that can also lure in new viewers to broadcasts.
This democratized approach to social video has spawned globally-recognized media properties like the Bleacher Report-owned House of Highlights. According to Tubular Labs, NBA-owned Facebook accounts have generated 5.1 billion video views this year — more than two times the totals for both the NFL and MLB, and over five times the number of views the NHL has in the timeframe.
Despite the narrative a certain U.S. president and right-wing media may be pushing right now, it’s clear that fans remain very invested in the NBA’s entertainment product no matter the platform it appears on. And regardless of “ratings,” the NBA remains the hottest ticket on TV for ad impressions since its late July return (per iSpot.tv).
All of this is a long way to get to this week’s news that Major League Baseball would like to get in on some of that democratized video hype.
Impressively, MLB provides an in-depth catalog of videos here, for fans to splice up as they wish and share to the masses. Along with highlights from recent seasons, fans can look at expert commentary and vintage clips as well to add in. From an organizational standpoint, the resource MLB provides here allows fans to cut searches in any number of ways, too: from highlights around specific players and teams, to situational highlights, at-bats against right or left-handed pitchers and more.
While MLB has a long history of embracing advanced metrics, sports fans’ shift to digital seemingly ceded that lead to the NBA, which now utilizes advanced stats and tape analysis more than just about any other league. However, MLB’s move here seems to make up some of that ground for both MLB itself and the fans — setting the stage for a vibrant community of in-depth video sharing that should power digital engagement and a growth in interest among younger fans as well.
Unlike the NBA, which has been growing rapidly — especially among younger and more diverse demographics — in recent years, MLB has not experienced the same success. In-person attendance has dipped for many franchises, and ratings have taken a similar nosedive. With every team’s media rights largely tied to pricey regional deals and imbalanced schedules pushing more divisional play, the game has increasingly become a segmented collection of clubs that make no impact outside of their immediate market.
A democratized approach to how MLB handles social video could at least help fix some of that, and create a more cohesive product for the country once more. While the league is late to the game, it’s not so much so that it can’t make up ground. This is a good first step, and a great time to do it as fans are unlikely to be in stadiums again until next April at absolute earliest.