Negotiating the Merger of Baseball and the Net


Internet Address BarYoung people’s viewing habits are changing so drastically that there needs to be new approaches to distributing sports TV over the Internet, Head of Business and Media at Major League Baseball Bob Bowman said at the WSJDLive global technology conference on Wednesday.

When people under 35 years old settle down in a new home, only 15% of them hook up to a traditional pay TV service, Mr. Bowman said.

“They are going to buy their content in a different way from the way you and I buy it,” he added.

Mr. Bowman runs MLB Advanced Media, the league’s technology arm. The business is being spun off into a separate company that handles media rights and online streaming for other companies and partners, including the National Hockey League, HBO’s online video service HBO Now, and World Wrestling Entertainment.

Mr. Bowman said the company will bid for media rights world-wide and develop new models for distributing sports and other TV content over the Internet, known as over-the-top, or OTT, distribution.

The value of live, exclusive sports TV rights may rise in an environment where there are fewer of these types of events to broadcast, but streaming that content over the Internet makes exclusive deals harder, Mr. Bowman said.

There are four main interested parties involved in live sports broadcasting: regional sports networks, multichannel video-programming distributors such as cable companies, sport clubs, and leagues.

When a game is streamed over the Internet, it’s less clear who among these groups has exclusive rights to the event, Mr. Bowman said.