How Baseball Can Fix Hockey’s Digital Experience

Los Angeles—Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) has long made a name for itself as the backend streaming provider for major digital outlets, ranging from World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) to Watch ESPN to HBO Now.

But the company’s August 2015 deal with the NHL was something different, according to Dirk Van Dall, VP of multimedia technology development at MLBAM. The agreement saw MLBAM taking over all the NHL’s digital properties, with the MLBAM-redesigned, NHL app and all launching live Feb. 1.

“People come to us for our platform, but [with the] NHL it was different,” Van Dall said Thursday in a keynote session at the Smart Content Summit. “We actually acquired the video and streaming rights for six years. Analyzing their business and what we do, we basically thought they were underutilizing their assets, and taking [the NHL assets], and utilizing many of the tricks that we’ve learned, we’re hopeful we can lift their monetization.”

The updated will offer a new, alternate-angle, multi-camera feature (six camera angles for select games) along with DVR control, while the updated NHL app will include a new out-of-market monthly package offering for mobile devices, for $2.99 a month. The package — dubbed NHL Premium — includes the final five minutes of regulation, plus overtime and shootouts of every game.

As for the Web portal, upgrades include more video, a new scoreboard and new player pages.

Founded in 2001 by the teams in Major League Baseball—initially as a simple repository for their digital rights (to help run their league and team Web sites)— MLBAM has morphed into the single-largest New York City-born technology start-up. It handles mobile, Internet and interactive digital services for approximately 40 companies.

The reason MLBAM has been tapped by digital outlets like Sony’s PlayStation Vue, TheBlaze TV and CBS Sportsline’s March Madness on demand is due to MLBAM’s own work with baseball, Van Dall said. “Baseball is a broadcast product that [deals in] tonnage,” Van Dall said. “Other leagues may play one or two games a week over 17 weeks, [while] baseball plays multiple games, on multiple days. We have 2,400 individual games. With home and away games, we have 5,000 individual productions we wanted to stream, were planning to stream, at least wanting to cover, and because of that problem, we decided we couldn’t outsource it."