Baseball Scores On Digital Without Brushing Back TV Viewing MLBAM Finds

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EXCLUSIVE: So much for the conventional wisdom that people who turn to digital platforms to follow live events including baseball are lost to television. Both platforms scored in the 2,429 games played in the 2015 MLB regular season and the early rounds of the playoffs, according to the inaugural report today from Major League Baseball Advanced Media’s Live Digital Data Ratings.

The LDDR numbers include consumer usage of MLBAM’s (only streamed live to subscribers outside of the teams’ local markets) and the At Bat app, as well as its multiplatform Gameday pitch-tracking application.

They show that fans each day collectively had 10.4 million unique sessions with live baseball (up 15% from 2014) and consumed an average of 71.35 million minutes of content (up 17%). Of the total, live video and audio accounted 1.65 million sessions with 50.1 million minutes. The Gameday app averaged 8.76 million sessions with 21.3 million minutes.

That all happened as baseball’s TV ratings increased across the board in the regular season: Regional sports networks for the 29 U.S. based clubs were up 6%, Fox’s national over-the-air broadcasts were +11%, ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball was +2%, Fox Sports 1’s games were +22%, and TBS’ Sunday games were +34%.

“That puts to permanent rest [the idea] that digital is the enemy of TV or TV is the enemy of digital,” MLBAM chief Bob Bowman tells me.

There’s one difference, though, in what he calls a “microwave” heating and cooling effect when TV and digital audiences hear that something exciting is taking place in a particular game. “They move in tandem [to the action], but they move more quickly on digital.”

The heat’s been on for the initial post-season games. Each one has averaged 2.4 million unique sessions with 22.2 mllion minutes.

Cubs Cardinals 2015 NLDSLast night’s wild ALDS Game 5 match in which the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Texas Rangers topped any nine-inning game this season with 5.5 million unique sessions and 36.2 million minutes.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Chicago Cubs’ defeat of the St. Louis Cardinals to go to the National League Championship Series generated 3.6 million unique sessions and 27.8 million minutes.

MLBAM hopes that the measurements will reassure its digital advertisers. “TV matters a lot more,” Bowman says. “We’re still a TV-centric culture. But digital matters.” He’s eager to shift the spotlight toward live venues, and away from attention-grabbing social media lead by Facebook and Twitter.

The LDDR numbers also are an important part of MLBM’s effort to shift the conversation away from Nielsen ratings which often don’t include digital viewing.

“Everyone understands the Nielsen ratings,” Bowman says. “We’re saying, ‘OK, in a relative world [with digital], what does it mean?’ …We are trying to influence how people view and measure these audiences. We don’t think the best way is through a TV prism.”

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