YES Network Expects In-Market Streaming Success

The New York Yankees are currently one of just two MLB teams to offer in-market streaming of live games to its fans, the other being the San Diego Padres. While both teams struggled to attract subscribers last season following a mid-season launch of the service, the Yankees are confident that 2010 will be a very different story.
“We think we’ll do really well if for no other reason than we’re starting in spring rather than midway through the season as we did last year,” says Eric Handler, director of communications at the YES Network. “We’ve also added some significant affiliates.”

Last season Yankees on Yes Live Game Streaming drew just 6,000 subscribers after launching in July with Cablevision as the sole participating MSO. Verizon FiOS and Blue Ridge Communications were later added for the final month-and-a-half of the season. Last week, Time Warner Cable, the second largest cable provider in the country, was officially added to YES’s stable of MSOs, giving the network’s live in-market streaming service 6 million eligible subscribers.

Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), which holds the streaming rights for all MLB teams and reached a muli-year agreement with the Yankees last year, built the YES video player out of the same media player used for MLB.tv. Currently, MLB.tv only offers out-of-market games to its subscribers. The Flash-based player offers streams up to 3 Mbps and 720p resolution, depending on the viewer’s internet connection.

“We have a great partnership with MLBAM,” Handler says. “We’re very confident in the player and in the level of service they provide.”

Initially, the same feed used for the YES television broadcast will be streamed online, including all ads, but there are plans to eventually insert targeted ads and graphics into the online service (as MLB.tv does through its partnership with Yahoo).

Participating MSO subscribers can buy a season-long package for $69.95 or a 30-day plan for $19.95. These customers will be able to watch live Yankees telecasts on their computers throughout the Yankees’ entire home broadcasting territory.  They also will be able to watch YES’ Yankees telecasts live on laptops or other portable computers via WiFi. MLBAM will manage the authentication process for each of YES’s streaming partners to ensure that only eligible customers may subscribe to the package.

After last year’s rather disappointing turnout for Yankees on Yes Live Game Streaming, YES has stopped short of making any official goals in terms of subscribers.

“Its difficult to define a ballpark figure for what would be a [successful number of] subscribers because this hasn’t been done before. We haven’t done a full season before and we haven’t done this many affiliates before,” says Handler. “We’re really dipping our toe in uncharted waters so to speak.”

Perhaps the biggest question mark concerns what will happen to YES’s ratings for Yankees telecasts should fans flock to the new service. Many critics of in-market streaming have speculated that it could erode television audiences for live games.

“We don’t think there’s going to be any cannibalization [of the TV audience] because we subscribe to the theory that you watch programming on the biggest possible screen,” Handler says. “If you have a TV set and you’re home, you’re going to watch the Yankees game on it. However, this does supplement you’re being able to watch it on a television set. It adds greater portability and convenience.”

Yankees on Yes Live Game Streaming is currently available at YESNetwork.com and Yankees.com.