At the recent ELEVATE conference, Noah Garden, EVP, Revenue for MLB Advanced Media forecasted that MLB's page views from mobile devices will exceed those from online within the next 12-18 months. Mobile has become a huge growth driver for MLB, rising from just 8% of use in 2008 to 37% last year as smartphones and tablets have exploded. In addition, Noah said that MLB is on pace to sell 2 million subscriptions to its MLB.tv and mobile services this year, up from last year's 1.5 million. MLB has launched 100 million streams of games this year, up 47% vs. last year.
Noah's comments came during a session I moderated with him and Mike Gaffney, CRO of video ad platform Auditude (full video after the jump). The session focused on how premium content providers are using both paid and ad-supported strategies to fully exploit the value of their content, rather than looking it the options as one or the other. As Noah said, "we want to be on any device that has a plug and a battery" to reach all targeted consumers with MLB.tv equally. Since MLB has been one of the key leaders in online/mobile video distribution, its initiatives are widely followed in the industry.
Noah said that a stumbling block for the mobile video ad-supported model, however, has been that a hodgepodge of technical solutions have been necessary to insert and manage ads across all of the devices. An upcoming breakthrough is a new ad solution MLB and Auditude have been working on jointly that will make dynamic video ad insertion "agnostic" to device. Mike sees this as helping unlock more video for mobile distribution. As Noah explained, given the skyrocketing mobile use of MLB content, improving monetization is a strategic priority. While the eventual goals will be better targeting and personalization, the near term objectives are simply to streamline the workflow and improve the user experience.
In addition to the ad-specific discussion the session also focuses on evolving advertiser needs in online vs. on-air, the outsized role of the iPhone's use vs. the iPad's, the opportunity for live events outside of just sports and music, and the changing metrics for success in mobile video advertising.
(Additional ELEVATE session videos will be released in the coming days)
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