By Aaron Pressman and Adam Lashinsky
June 7, 2018

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The San Francisco Giants won a thrilling come-from-behind extra-inning game against the Arizona Diamondbacks Wednesday. There was only one way to watch the game, though, and that was on Facebook, which signed a deal this year with Major League Baseball to livestream exclusively 25 games. Facebook reportedly paid more than $1 million per game.

MLB’s deal with Facebook is a slap in the face to traditional baseball fans, the kind who like to watch their local team on their local TV stations. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Bruce Jenkins calls this a “screw you” move by professional baseball. “Try to fathom the logic of a business model that states, in essence, ‘Deny your product to interested customers,’” Jenkins writes. “That’s MLB sailing cluelessly into the future, while thousands boo.”

I’m one of those traditionalists who finds it an abomination I’d have to log into Facebook to catch a game. But Jenkins unintentionally gets it right when he says “thousands” are booing the Facebook move. That may be. Yet Facebook and other tech companies promise to reach millions through their streaming deals (just on Thursday, Amazon announced a new deal to stream Premier League soccer games). And come on, Bruce. I try not to do it myself, but logging into Facebook isn’t that tough.

Analyst-turned-investor Gene Munster explores this phenomenon in an informative report that shows how much various streaming services are paying for various sports broadcast rights. The price-per-viewer varies widely among basketball, football, and other sports rights packages. But tech companies consistently pay far more per viewer than broadcasters, according to Munster’s research. Given that many renew their contracts, or at least try to, presumably they are “monetizing” their investments sufficiently.

Sports leagues like MLB certainly are sailing into the future. But not cluelessly.


Perhaps others made this observation too, but kudos to Stratechery’s Ben Thompson for pointing out that for the second time in three years Microsoft upstaged Apple during the week of the latter’s Worldwide Developers Conference. This year it was the software maker’s mega-acquisition of GitHub. Two years ago it was Microsoft’s uber-mega-acquisition of LinkedIn.

Stick around long enough and you’ll see everything. Microsoft outshining Apple with a splashy announcement? That was once unheard of. Seems like these days the impossible happens all the time.

Adam Lashinsky


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