Thursday, March 8, 2018, 12:43 PM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
Major League Baseball is becoming a huge beneficiary of YouTube TV’s aggressive expansion plans. Under a new deal announced this morning, YouTube TV will be the “presenting sponsor” of the 2018 and 2019 World Series, the same groundbreaking role YouTube TV had in last Fall’s classic. That deal had many innovative aspects and introduced the YouTube TV brand and service to millions of viewers.
The new deal also includes a promotion called “First Pitch,” which will incorporate YouTube TV into the first pitches of games on MLB Network and MLB.tv. Players will also have roles in national TV spots and on-air call outs during the games. And there will be YouTube TV branding on MLB’s digital properties and social media accounts. Finally, there will also be in-stadium promotion (this was a key aspect of last Fall’s deal, where the YouTube TV brand was omnipresent in the 2 stadiums).
As was previously announced, MLB Network will become part of the YouTube TV lineup as of today and soon MLB.tv, the subscription service, will be available for an extra charge.
The expanded partnership, which I’d guess is easily an 8-figure deal or more, raises the ante on the other big skinny bundles (DirecTV Now, Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV and PlayStation Vue) along with smaller players such as fuboTV and Philo. None of these competitors has pursued as high-profile a marketing campaign as YouTube TV (the closest is likely DirecTV Now, mainly via promotions with AT&T wireless service).
As I wrote last week, less than a year since its launch, YouTube TV looks poised for strong growth in 2018. It’s not just marketing YouTube TV is investing heavily in, but also distribution and content. It is now in over 80 of the top U.S. markets and on its way to covering 85% of the country. Specifically, YouTube TV has prioritized carrying local broadcast TV in these markets, a critical success factor. Sports networks are also a key priority.
Last Fall, YouTube TV’s World Series campaign was a bit ahead of itself because many local markets couldn’t even get service. That’s totally different in 2018, which means converting awareness into subscribers will be much more likely. And keep in mind, many people only heard about YouTube TV for the first time last Fall, so repetition throughout this year will make a big difference (as will starting to know people who have subscribed).
It’s becoming clearer that YouTube TV is a top consumer-facing priority for Google. With its massive resources, that means everyone in the TV industry should be taking notice. In the meantime, Major League Baseball, local broadcasters and sports networks have all become the first big beneficiaries of YouTube TV’s aggressive spending. No doubt they won’t be the last.
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