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Volume 23 No. 13

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Deltatre has teamed up with Major League Baseball as its new technology services provider and will back its global network of nearly 300 digital destinations.

The deal adds to the sports portfolio of Bruin Sports Capital-owned Deltatre, which has relationships with the ATP World Tour, FIFA and the NFL, among other sports properties. In 2018, it built the content management system that underpinned the revamping of NFL team websites, a process similar to what it has done for MLB in this arrangement.

Forge, the brand name of Deltatre’s content management system, has already been supporting MLB.com and the 30 club websites since Opening Day after being chosen by MLB to replace BAMTech last year. Deltatre has already redesigned MLB.com and home pages for the clubs. Tools are in place for more design changes, if opportunities emerge.

The onboarding will continue in the coming months for hundreds of other MLB-supported websites in the baseball ecosystem, and ultimately all will be supported by Forge. 

George Pyne’s Bruin Sports Capital owns Deltatre, which offered similar support to the NFL’s websites.
Photo: getty images
George Pyne’s Bruin Sports Capital owns Deltatre, which offered similar support to the NFL’s websites.
Photo: getty images
George Pyne’s Bruin Sports Capital owns Deltatre, which offered similar support to the NFL’s websites.
Photo: getty images

One of the reasons MLB chose Deltatre was because it felt the platform affords MLB the chance to be nimble and flexible, capable of providing live updates and energizing sites with live content. Additional features and tools, such as live blogging, visual stories and creating new digital experiences for users, are also in the works.

The seeds of this partnership were planted after MLB Advanced Media sold a majority stake of BAMTech — which has powered numerous OTT services, including HBO Now — to Disney in separate transactions in 2016 and 2017 collectively worth $2.58 billion. When Disney took control of BAMTech, the technology stack went to Disney and has since become Disney Streaming Services. 

Forge, Deltatre’s content management system, has been supporting MLB.com and each of the 30 club websites since Opening Day.
Photo: mlb.com
Forge, Deltatre’s content management system, has been supporting MLB.com and each of the 30 club websites since Opening Day.
Photo: mlb.com
Forge, Deltatre’s content management system, has been supporting MLB.com and each of the 30 club websites since Opening Day.
Photo: mlb.com

That served as the ignition point for MLB to conduct a global search to find a new content management system before Opening Day of this season. A change was viewed as almost inevitable, with Disney’s focus with BAMTech squarely on Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu.

Deltatre’s Jeff Volk, senior vice president and head of business and revenue for the Americas, is a former MLBAM and BAMTech executive. He noted the relationships “within our families” — extending from Volk all the way up to Bruin Sports Capital’s CEO and founder George Pyne — helped as Deltatre and MLB initially “embarked on a conversation.” But more importantly, he added, was what occurred in the summer of 2018, when they engaged in a monthslong proof-of-concept. That ultimately led to the partnership.

Busy busy

Three of the entities at the center of this deal — Bruin Sports Capital, Deltatre and BAMTech — have had an eventful few years:

2015

George Pyne founds Bruin Sports Capital

2016

Bruin Sports Capital buys Deltatre

BAMTech sells a 33% stake to the Walt Disney Company

2017

Walt Disney Company acquires a majority stake in BAMTech

2018

Deltatre takes over CMS production of the NFL’s 32 team websites

2019

Deltatre takes over as MLB’s new technology services provider

“MLB in the last two years has changed quite considerably with the sale of BAMTech,” Volk said. “It had incredible growth and incredible success and had started to look at different ways of delivering solutions. The relationships between Deltatre and MLB are great. I believe relationships matter. But the relationship can only get you in the door to present and showcase the platform. Ultimately, at the end of the day, the platform needs to speak for itself.”

For Deltatre, the challenge of onboarding in less than six months for Opening Day this season appeared daunting. Opening Day is one of MLB’s most trafficked days of the year, with millions of fans accessing the site on different platforms. As it turned out, MLB’s transition to a new content management system for the start of this season went off without any technical or user issues, which MLB viewed as an extraordinary achievement.

“It’s going to really transform our content delivery, so we’re getting data, video, news to our fans as quickly as possible and in a way that is effective from a news delivery standpoint,” said Chris Marinak, MLB executive vice president of strategy, technology and innovation. “We’ve gone from a world where we were waiting even eight or 10 minutes before we could get a story published online to a world where we are having all of our content, media, video, news delivered in sub-one minute, sub-30 seconds a lot of times.”

Deltatre was acquired by Bruin Sports Capital in 2016. Principal dealmakers for the MLB alliance were Pyne, Volk, Deltatre deputy CEO and chief commercial officer Andrea Marini and Tony Petitti, MLB’s deputy commissioner for business and media.

This week, writers Bill King and Eric Prisbell get into our story on Deltatre replacing BAMTech in MLB’s lineup. Then, writer Bret McCormick shares his in-depth data conversation with YouGov Sport’s Scott Horowitz. Finally, Publisher and Executive Editor Abe Madkour weighs in on our annual Game Changers feature.

 

The Washington Mystics’ move to a smaller Entertainment & Sports Arena resulted in a sharp drop at the gate.
Photo: Getty Images
The Washington Mystics’ move to a smaller Entertainment & Sports Arena resulted in a sharp drop at the gate.
Photo: Getty Images
The Washington Mystics’ move to a smaller Entertainment & Sports Arena resulted in a sharp drop at the gate.
Photo: Getty Images

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert has been on the job for about two months, but already the former Deloitte CEO is well-versed with the challenges and opportunities within the league as it enters its postseason.

 

The WNBA’s 2019 regular-season average attendance dipped 3.5% to 6,535 fans per game this year. That number was affected by the Washington Mystics’ move to the far-smaller, 4,200-seat Entertainment & Sports Arena this year from the 20,000-seat Capital One Arena, resulting in a 25.9% drop in attendance.

The WNBA had 41 sellouts this year, the same as last season and tied for the fourth-highest overall in the league’s 23-year history. Engelbert sees one positive at the gate, as the percentage of arena capacity increased this season by 2.1% to 81.7% in the 12-team league.

On television, the WNBA saw combined viewership across all its networks in ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and NBA TV increase by 5% with combined viewership on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 growing by 7%. 

In addition, the league is building off its new logo and branding effort this season by debuting a 30-second spot to promote the playoffs. The branding effort has been well received and aims to amplify the league’s pop cultural presence.

With a short body of work, Engelbert feels most confident in comparing metrics. 

“Coming from my old life, I am always looking at comparisons,” said Engelbert, who joined the WNBA in July. “We are showing that the WNBA is broader than attendance and viewership. There is some momentum around the W based on the impact it is having in women’s sports.”

Engelbert spent her first two months on the job visiting every WNBA market, and she now faces the upcoming offseason charged with negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement while also looking to drive league revenue and improve fan and player experiences.

The league is currently in CBA negotiations for a new labor deal after the players opted out of the current agreement.

“We are having productive discussions,” Engelbert said of the CBA talks. 

She would not discuss the profitability of the league, given that the season is still underway and that she has only been working for the league since July. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told the Associated Press last year that the WNBA has lost an average of $10 million per year.

“One of the reasons I was hired was to assess the economic model of the league and teams,” Engelbert said. “Everything is solved by broadening the revenue base. My role is to look at the financials and how we drive a sustainable model going forward. We have got to work really hard to find ways to broaden our revenue base.”

Engelbert faces the challenge with no prior experience in the sports industry, but she said she is finding that her business background lends itself well to the WNBA.

“I thought it would be so different, but sports is business and business is about relationships,” she said. “Given my long history in the corporate world, I’ve been pleased that my skill set is transferable.”