In his capacity as a Columnist for California Sports Lawyer®, Founder Jeremy Evans has written a column about three ways Major League Baseball can continue to increase attendance and popularity of the national pastime.
You can read the full column below.
We live in a time where entertainment and sports are often intermingled. Whether that is with athletes becoming Hollywood producers, television personalities, or on-air talent, there is a growing market for athletes becoming something more off-the-field. Sports as a property has also become a convertible asset into entertainment film and television projects.
Major League Baseball (“MLB”) had a renaissance this year in increased attendance. There were two main factors for this change. First, rule changes that sped up the game and encouraged more hits and stolen bases. Second, MLB working with franchises like the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks on direct-to-consumer (“DTC”) streaming options as the Diamond Sports Group stumbled in its regional sports network (“RSN”) approach.
If MLB wants to keep attendance growing for the 2024 season and beyond, keeping with the rule changes is important. It is also imperative that MLB look to nationwide television production following the National Football League (“NFL”) model, increased sports betting operations to encourage engagement and spending near ballparks, and shortened playoff windows with two additional playoff teams per league, American and National.
MLB’s strategy in content delivery of its games had been a regional one and unfortunately it turned the beautiful game into a regional one with fewer fans nationwide, but more deeply rooted fans in local markets. Baseball is not in a financial pinch, but it could stand to learn a few things from the NFL in its approach to the distribution of games. The NFL has a national television strategy with streaming options. MLB has had a regional approach with streaming on the MLB.tv application for out-of-market games. MLB essentially needs to makes it games more readily available to all markets at all times. This is in part why they are teaming up with franchises that have stumbled with the RSN approach to move towards DTC. This is a long-term strategy as franchises come to an end with RSN deals and seek streaming and national distribution on larger broadcasters concurrently and/or separately.
Sports betting clearly increases engagement. And for states that allow sports betting, there are increased efforts to place casinos and sportsbooks next to or near ballparks, stadiums, and arenas. There is on the one hand, the concern of impropriety. There is on the other hand, an increase of revenue and engagement near stadiums as fans spend more time and money near their favorite sports team homes. It is a balancing act for leagues and franchises and something more and more will consider as options as sports betting becomes, for better or worse, normalized. This is especially true when franchises own the land or development near home field.
MLB lost some momentum into the post season with viewership as teams had as much as five or six days off. Some teams even had an extra day off between games one and two of the Division Series. There were also two to three teams in each league that were within one or two games of making the playoffs. If MLB wants to increase attendance, it should look to simultaneously speeding up post season scheduling windows, but adding more teams on the cusp. This way, teams with a better record during the regular season have the advantage of staying active, but also balanced by additional teams to contend with.
It is also true that MLB and all professional sports particularly, the NFL and MLB, will benefit from international expansion. The key to success will also be great distribution so fans across the globe and especially in the United States can see the development. The NFL has mainly solved the issue through broader distribution. Batter up, MLB.
About Jeremy M. Evans:
Jeremy M. Evans is the Chief Entrepreneur Officer, Founder & Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer®, representing entertainment, media, and sports clients in contractual, intellectual property, and dealmaking matters. Evans is an award-winning attorney and industry leader based in Los Angeles and Newport Beach, California. He can be reached at Jeremy@CSLlegal.com. www.CSLlegal.com.
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