SBJ/20100308/This Week's News

MLBAM, Yahoo! build official fantasy game

MLB Advanced Media and Yahoo! have expanded their video and advertising partnership to create the official MLB.com fantasy baseball game that will be powered by Yahoo!.

The commissioner-style fantasy game will be accessible via both MLB.com and Yahoo! Sports. In addition to traditional postgame video highlights, the new game will offer in-game highlights that will synchronize with live scoring. Users will be able to customize those highlights for their individual fantasy teams, as well.

This premium version of the game will cost $9.99 for the season after a two-week free trial. A free version of the co-branded game, without the video content, will also be available.

Yahoo! will sell ads for the new game.

The move parallels Yahoo! deals with the NHL and PGA Tour in which the portal produces official fantasy games for those leagues. The new deal also builds on the original MLBAM-Yahoo! agreement from 2008 through which Yahoo! makes the MLB.TV live game package available from its site and sells the advertising inventory against that content. Yahoo! last year also began to incorporate MLB.com material into its own fantasy baseball games, serving as another forerunner to the expanded deal.

Yahoo! will sell the advertising for the new fantasy game, creating a situation where it will pitch brands on joint advertising buys for the game and MLB.TV.

“This is a very much a continuation of our strategy to be a place leagues go to help reach a broad audience,” said Jimmy Pitaro, Yahoo! vice president of media.

The deal marks a first for MLBAM in having a retail-level syndication of in-game highlights outside of MLB.com. Key partners such as ESPN and Yahoo! have existing rights deals with MLBAM that grant them access to such material on a wholesale level, but here the material will be sold on an a la carte basis.

The deal also continues a resurgence in fantasy baseball for MLBAM after a prior operating strategy, which focused on licensing deals with fantasy game providers, fizzled in the wake of the CDM Fantasy Sports legal case. In the last year, baseball’s digital arm has created several prominent, differentiated fantasy experiences, including a mobile version of its popular Beat The Streak casual game and an alliance with Bloomberg Sports for an array of analytical fantasy products.

“It’s always been our strategy to try and work with the major players out there and not look to steal [fantasy] players from other leagues,” said Bob Bowman, MLBAM president and chief executive. “Perhaps that’s more apparent and more visible now, but it’s long been our desire to do something like this. … We’ve never put our highlights somewhere else like this, and we think we’re going to learn a lot.”

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