The changes that took place in the way Major League Baseball (MLB) games broadcast on television made many think that the same will happen to radio soon enough. Today, local television stations only broadcast twenty-three per cent of the MLB games. Seven of the major league team games are only available on cable, an exclusivity factor that seems to work well for them. In an interview to WSJ, Edison Media Research President, Larry Rosin, said, "It is probably inevitable that baseball radio broadcasts will go to a one hundred per cent subscription model. It will happen because there's too much money in it not to do it."
This is an interesting perspective for the main digital satellite radio providers, Sirius XM. This potential development sounds excellent for XM, especially as they would hold the exclusive rights to all major-league baseball games. Of course, that would be an important step forward for XM, as the MLB generates huge interest in the US, and it would mean that another building block on the development of satellite radio.
MLB also has its own subscription paid online radio channel and if the same thing happens to radio as it did to television, it would definitely enjoy the situation. Since experts in the media field consider that satellite radio is still in its infancy, the trend of moving broadcasts of such games to a subscription paid environment would take digital radio broadcasting to the next level of development.
The earnings from XM Radio and MLB Radio split among the thirty MLB teams, but they not divided equally. This means that the MLB team's interests would be high and the economic and financial factors could speed up the process of making MLB games exclusive to satellite radio. The statistics we have today tell an interesting story: presently around twenty-three per cent of XM subscribers have signed up to receive the MLB transmission, so there is a lot of potential for growth. Terrestrial radio can already start to feel the danger of losing MLB broadcasts to satellite radio as this revenue driven model is more attractive for the MLB teams.
As with anything that reaches such a controversial topic, the opinions vary among experts and the public. Some people are convinced that this whole movement is nothing more than a bubble of soap. Baseball is mostly a TV favorite and although there is still a lot of interest in MLB radio broadcasts, most people will not feel the transfer to digital radio as a major change.
Although radio was the initial growing medium for baseball, television is king today, and they say that the transfer from terrestrial radio to satellite radio is not something that will have a significant effect. Others say, “MLB would lose more audience then it would gain from the exclusive fees.” Since the format of the terrestrial radio stations is more flexible, it also allows them to broadcast more games than broadcast television.
The same people say, “The MLB would alienate a lot of local fans if they took baseball off AM radio.” For other people, there is another comparison, that is, between the affect this would have on MLB and the effect it had on NFL, where a similar process has already started.
The Sirius NFL broadcasts brought the company some new listeners, but the changes were not extreme and since NFL is more popular than MLB, some expect the same to happen in MLBs case as well. Of course, there are voices that say this change would have a significant effect on the way fans perceived baseball.
Watching a game on television can take away a few hours, many prefer to listen to the game on radio while they are doing something else. This is especially true during summer months, when many prefer to spend time in the yard or on the porch, not inside the room in front of a television set. Of course, comparisons between the various major sport types in the US come from many perspectives, but most will agree that baseball is a game that works well on radio. For now, all the signs point at a transfer of broadcasts from terrestrial radio towards satellite radio, but this may change depending on the response companies and MLB receive from the public.
Jane Doe writes from the American South East.
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