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Volume 23 No. 18
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Octagon hired to sell media rights for MiLB

Minor League Baseball hired Octagon to help sell its media rights and hopes to have new deals in place as early as next season.

 

Major League Baseball currently holds the league’s video rights, which it streams to MiLB.tv, and TuneIn holds its audio rights. Sources say Minor League Baseball currently gets a rights fee in the low seven figures. Given the number of direct-to-consumer services currently in the market, that fee easily could double, even as Major League Baseball has discussed contracting up to 42 minor league teams.

“The media landscape is moving quickly and evolving by the day,” said David Wright, Minor League Baseball’s chief marketing and commercial officer. “The evolution is providing emerging properties like ours the ability to thrive at levels not seen five or 10 years ago.”

This marks the first time MiLB has decided to shop its media rights, which consist of around 6,700 games in 160 U.S. markets and a wealth of shoulder programming. Minor League Baseball executives would like to have a deal in place for next season, but they would be willing to wait until 2021 if they can find the right partner. MLB would continue to stream the games to MiLB.tv if they don’t have a new partner by next season.

MiLB plans to target streaming companies, telcos, social media companies and regional broadcasters.

“The part that caught Octagon’s eye is that there is no property like Minor League Baseball in the U.S. from a media rights perspective,” said Daniel Cohen, senior vice president of Octagon’s global media rights consulting division. “The amount of reach that Minor League Baseball provides — I don’t think there’s another property you can compare it to.”

Because Minor League Baseball hasn’t shopped its media rights before, Octagon is treating it as an emerging property. That means exposure and marketing will be big parts of any deal.

“The third part, of course, is the economics — the economics have to work,” Cohen said. “There’s a cost to production and technical distribution. These rights do have value. We will be looking across exposure, marketing and economics to align our value and our goals with the same partners.”

League executives see opportunities internationally, too, especially given the fact that more than 40% of minor-league players come from Spanish-speaking countries.

“We’ve got to get this right,” Wright said. “We’re committed to getting it right, which means aligning with strategic partners that truly buy into our vision for growth. If it happens in 2020 — fantastic. If it’s 2021 — that’s OK, provided that we align with the right partners that are going to invest in our business and really buy into this vision of growth.”