Baseball Fantasies: Crowdsourcing A Dormant Idea

This is probably a main blog fantasy masquerading as a fantasy blog post. I’ll analyze zero players, discuss no strategies, and only once reference a draft (<—there it is!). Instead, let’s talk about the future – specifically how millennials (and whatever post-millennials are called) will want to consume televised baseball. It’s a future that’s simultaneous brilliant and illegal.

It’s time for micro-broadcasts.

A quick foray onto google reveals that I did not coin the term “micro-broadcast.” Too bad. It means what it sounds like – a broadcast intended for a small audience. This winter on Twitter, millions of words have been spilled on the topic: “What’s wrong with baseball.” Like anything complex, there are lots of problems, some of which are tied inextricably to the good things. And some, like the current outdated broadcast meta, can be completely reimagined without any true ill effects.

Earlier this morning, I was talking to Andrew Perpetua about MLB broadcasts. Here, read his words.

There are two main issues – the stodgy, unhelpful broadcast teams, and the predictable, lifeless camera work. A micro-broadcast can be used to fix the first problem. There isn’t much we can do about the second problem. That’s on the networks.

Imagine, instead of listening to Joe Buck next October, you tune into the FanGraphs audio overlay hosted by Jeff Sullivan, Carson Cistulli, and Paul Sporer.* Now that’s a broadcast team. Step aside boring old guys, it’s time to hear from… uh… maybe Carson wasn’t the right choice. They’re elucidating their opinions about raclette cheese while Jose Altuve steals a base. Now it’s a discussion of which cheese best embodies Altuve’s signature blend of size, speed, and power.

*I wanted to be in the booth, but I think that’s our A Team. Which you would find ironic if you knew my twitter handle.

But that’s part of the beauty of a micro-broadcast. It’s an opportunity to “hang out” with interesting internet personalities while watching a game at home. Around here, we tend to like analytics and quirkiness. Cistulliness, if you will.

Some people may prefer to mainline sports radio hot takes. Yuck. Stoned Baseball strikes me as an instant success. The third inning is brought to you by “Pigs (three different ones).”

A whole ecosystem could develop to better engage the entire baseball viewing audience. Grow tired of someone’s schtick? Run out of weed for Stoned Baseball (they’re a tad trite when sober, aren’t they)? Find a new broadcast.

For some fans, the vanilla broadcast will still be the right experience. I imagine the vast majority of fans would opt to remain with the primary crew. It’s also likely that successful micro-broadcasts would spur the network to improve.

Presently, I can conceive of no way to make a micro-broadcast accessible to fans while avoiding the MLB lawyer brigade. The league is understandably protective of their product, something they have to enforce due to contracts with networks. You see – and I bet you didn’t know this – they want you to watch the commercials.

Someday, perhaps 20 years from now, MLB will figure out how to partner with a provider like Twitch to offer these micro-broadcasts. At that time, they’ll have solved how to protect their precious commercial revenues. A contractually managed solution. Unfortunately, we need/want micro-broadcasts now, and there’s no way for MLB to support them. The networks could potentially spearhead this innovation. However, they’re the very crux of the problem. Expecting them to innovation after multiple decades of stagnation is… foolish.

I suppose I could run a subscription service in which I personally vetted everybody who wanted to tune into the broadcast overlay. In this scenario, I’d secretively email a link to the day’s host – ostensibly some unassuming alphanumeric string that nobody would accidentally find. MLB would probably know I was pulling shenanigans, but they wouldn’t be able to prove it. Sounds pretty labor intensive to me. Exclusive. Not lucrative. And that’s my best idea. Do you have a better one? Please have a better one!

Ultimately, this is a pipe dream, one that should eventually come to pass but may be perpetually blocked by the conservative baseball establishment. It’s a fantasy about the game that inspired fantasy sports. And thus, it’s a fantasy blog post.

You can follow me on twitter @BaseballATeam

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4 years ago

I’m going to disagree with Andrew’s tweet. Baseball certainly has a pace of play problem which may be MORE obvious in stadium than watching on TV. Especially during the playoffs when commercial breaks feel like they go on forever and play grinds to a halt because every pitch is magnified in importance to the nth degree.

However, I do agree that having better broadcast teams do help. I would rather listen to a Nats game on the radio than watch on TV because the broadcast team on radio is so much better.

4 years ago
Reply to  Hornerfan

You are correct that it is two problems. Pace is unbelievably slow. Announcers are boring and horrible. I’m not a lawyer and I don’t play one on the internet. I don’t see why there would be a problem with a mechanism that pays additional money to MLB, while not injuring the broadcast network. Probably something that I’m missing, but why can’t access to the visuals (including the commercials) be restricted to the appropriate network, but viewers have capacity to tap into the alternate audio feed? Alternate feed providers are required to pay money for this privilege. Who loses under this scenario? No one that I can tell.

4 years ago
Reply to  pepper69fun

MLB broadcasting contracts are not centralized – it’s a melange of 30 different deals with 30 different clubs. So each micro-broadcaster would have to negotiate with each broadcasting partner separately. These broadcasting partners have paid huge sums for these rights and are justifiably tight-fisted over them, to the point where even MLB can’t properly intervene for the good of a club (see the still-ongoing, very messy O’s-Nats dispute). So any of these micro-broadcasts would, under the current broadcasting system, probably have to be produced by the rights holder themselves, who have limited incentive to dedicate resources in to further dividing up their already dwindling viewership base. Now, you can argue that these broadcasts would increase the viewership base, but there’s no data to back that up, at least not insomuch as you can convince broadcasters to devote resources to it. It would probably take one progressive organization with little to lose – the A’s maybe – to prove the concept can work before you’d get the NESNs and the YES Networks and such to adopt it. It would have to work under the existing framework of MLB broadcasts, and that is a tall order.