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Volume 23 No. 17
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MLBAM’s Beat the Streak chases history

MLB Advanced Media this week will begin an extensive campaign tying its casual fantasy game Beat the Streak to the 75th anniversary of Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.

DiMaggio’s streak, one of the most revered records in all of sports, began May 15, 1941. MLBAM is marking the occasion with a series of social media posts, mobile alerts, video vignettes, photography and other content to follow the streak in sync with the calendar between now and mid-July. After the July 17 anniversary of the streak’s end, the content integrations will shift to the 75th anniversary of Ted Williams’ .406 batting average, the last .400 season in MLB history, which happened that same historic year.

Later this summer, a Williams-themed Beat the Streak mini-game will challenge users to compile a composite player batting average during their streak of greater than .406. The moves serve in part as a spotlight for Beat the Streak, which in its 16th year of operation stands as one of the oldest and most popular fantasy games in the industry.

Beat the Streak’s game play is simple: A participant must pick a real-life MLB player to get a hit each day in pursuit of breaking DiMaggio’s mark. But in the 16 seasons of play, nearly 80 million total streaks and more than 4 million unique users, including 1 million this year, the longest streak in Beat the Streak is 49 games by New Jersey banker Mike Karatzia in 2007. Only 55 streaks have reached 40 games, in contrast to MLBAM expectations upon the game’s 2001 debut of DiMaggio falling early and often.

The fantasy game is marking the 75th anniversary of Joe DiMaggio’s (left) 56-game hitting streak (see logo) and Ted Williams’ .406 batting average.
“We have continually tried to make this game easier, but people have continued to see it’s still very hard to match up to DiMaggio,” said Gregg Klayman, MLBAM senior vice president of product development and content strategy, who created the game in late 2000 before its launch the following spring.

Beat the Streak was originally designed as a gateway of sorts into other, more involved forms of fantasy baseball that are typically difficult to approach for novice players.

“You have to remember that in 2001, there wasn’t as much to do online,” Klayman said. “Video obviously wasn’t nearly as prevalent. We didn’t have mobile or social yet. It was a very different time. This was a way to engage people. It still is, but it’s obviously grown.”

Beat the Streak now stands as a flagship in MLB’s overall gaming efforts. Beat the Streak is also part of MLBAM’s continued push to advance mobile platforms; nearly 85 percent of game play occurs on mobile.

Sponsorship of Beat the Streak has typically been sold in one-year packages, and frequently has been folded into larger, multimillion-dollar deals. No sponsor is attached to the game now, though it has been sponsored in the past by Dunkin’ Donuts, Scotts, Burger King and Mitchum. MLBAM holds open the possibility of a short-run deal later this season, similar to what was done last year with LG.

More recently, Klayman and MLBAM have made numerous efforts to make the game more approachable and enticing for players, including pick recommendations, a series of statistical filters to identify hitter and matchup trends, the “double down” format in which users can pick two players in a day, the ability to take off days and pause a streak, mulligans for broken streaks of between 10 and 15 games, group play, and an increase in 2011 in the grand prize for a 57-game streak to $5.6 million, up from levels of $3 million, $1 million, $100,000 and $10,000.

Press releases touting the game in recent years have grown increasingly urgent and pleading in the hopes of awarding the grand prize. MLBAM has incorporated additional prizes, such as merchandise and game tickets, for reaching various streak levels as low as five games.

One element that has eased in recent years as DiMaggio has remained untouched in both real life and fantasy: MLBAM’s premiums to insure the $5.6 million grand prize have fallen in recent years. MLBAM declined to discuss financial details, but no one coming within seven games of DiMaggio — again mirroring real life — and an eight-year history of carrying insurance against the game have made for a straightforward actuarial analysis.