MLB Advanced Media and Minor League Baseball have significantly expanded the MiLB.TV digital video package for the affiliated minors to include nearly all Class AA teams, some Class A teams, and the offering’s first availability on mobile.
The expansion of MiLB.TV represents some of the first tangible results of a three-year contract renewal signed last year by the two entities for the Baseball Internet Rights Co., the joint operating structure for the minors’ digital rights.
MiLB.TV formed two years ago with live games for Class AAA teams on broadband. The package now will include more than 3,500 games for 70 teams and an expansion to Apple’s iOS mobile platform through an updated MiLB application. MiLB.TV costs $39.99 a year or $9.99 a month, and subscribers of MLB.TV receive half off the package’s price.
“This is a big step forward in the development of the package,” said Art Matin, Mandalay Baseball Properties chief executive and BIRCO chairman. “Interest in Minor League Baseball, seeing the development of future major leaguers, is as great as it’s ever been, and this allows us to tap more fully into that interest.”
But making those games available, particularly in the lower classifications, is no small technological feat.
For many live events that MLBAM streams, particularly major league games and programming from ESPN3, the company has a direct fiber connection to either the ballpark or, in the case of ESPN, the network’s Bristol, Conn., headquarters to take in the video.
The minor league games require in most instances uploading the video to an Internet cloud-based server using an encoder box at each ballpark. MLBAM then downloads the video as close to real time as possible for distribution to fans.
Many of the minor league games are not professionally produced by a TV network, meaning the video available on MiLB.TV in some cases is a repurposed feed from the ballpark scoreboard or a single-camera shot from center field or the stadium press box.
MLBAM and Minor League Baseball are working to improve the production value of the games, but that is likely to take several years. MLBAM and MiLB share technical costs.
“It’s a bit of a workaround compared to what we do for the major league games, but many of these games would not otherwise be available,” said Martin Keely, MLBAM senior vice president of partner solutions. “We’ve taken the firm viewpoint that we have to be on mobile and live as much as we can.”
Overall broadband and mobile traffic to MiLB.com in the minors’ opening week was up more than 40 percent over 2012.