When you think about companies that have changed the face of online video streaming, YouTube, Google, and other technology greats probably come to mind. However, many people fail to consider the impact that baseball has had in the development of Internet TV and streaming. In fact, the MLB has been a major technological innovator for decades, and they continue to be front-runners when it comes to offering new ways to watch sports programming.
Baseball’s History on Innovative TV
The idea that baseball has been a major player in the development of new ways to watch TV is nothing new. In fact, these innovations have gone back as far as the early 1950s, when the first televised baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Boston Braves was broadcasted in color. Broadcasts continued throughout the decade, despite limited technology, including four black-and-white cameras located on the Mezzanine level, no zoom capabilities, poor quality, and only one microphone for the play-by-play announcer.
Over the next several decades, baseball and the MLB worked to improve technology in order to offer fans at home an improved viewing experience. Electronic graphics were introduced in the late-1960s, and improved camera lenses allowed for tighter shots of players beginning in the 80s. Another major technological advance for TV came in 1993 when CBS first broadcasted televised replays, much to the dismay of game umpires.
In 1997, baseball achieved another monumental TV moment when it aired the first ever All-Star game. For this game, the “Catcher Cam” was introduced, in which a camera had been affixed to the catchers’ masks to provide the perspective of the action occurring around home plate. This advance would soon become a regular staple in many MLB baseball broadcasts. Other innovations that have been added to baseball broadcasts include the positioning of 12-16 microphones in the outfield, audio accompanying graphics, slow-motion technology, and the Strike Zone, which shows specific pitch sequences. With all of these advances, it is no surprise that baseball would soon be the future of Internet TV.
Baseball Gets Started with Internet Streaming
It’s clear that baseball has always been on the forefront of technology when it comes to broadcasting games to sports fans, and this was no different when it came to Internet streaming. The MLB one of the first businesses to develop this technology, allowing fans to watch live streaming sports online before anyone else with the creation of its organization, BAM. BAM, which stands for Major League Baseball Advanced Media, originated as the organization’s IT department, providing tech support for the 30 teams in the league. However, over the last 15 years, BAM has become the most reliable and talented of entities in the streaming video world.
BAM first put its Internet streaming skills to the test in 2001 when the Seattle Mariners brought on Ichiro Suzuki, a player from Japan. Suzuki was a celebrity in his home-country, and he had dozens of Japanese reporters that covered his every move. In light of this new recruit, BAM decided to experiment for the first time with live streaming, allowing his fans a way to keep up with his performance in the U.S. by broadcasting audio of his games online. Unfortunately, this move wasn’t a great success, as BAM didn’t even reach 1,000 subscribers.
BAM wasn’t deterred by its lackluster first performance of streaming media. In August 2002, they produced an online broadcast of an MLB game between the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers. This occurred before the development of YouTube or high speed internet as we know it, and while the first Internet TV online stream didn’t look that great, it broadcast to over 30,000 online viewers. Fans responded positively, and BAM kept experimenting, launching its first paid product for video streaming performance later that fall.
BAM’s head start in the field of live TV streaming gave the company a distinct advantage in both cost and speed. For years, the organization created intimate relationships with Internet companies and worked to build high-speed connections and data centers. This ability to deploy infrastructure early-on in the game allowed the organization continued success with its online streaming efforts.
Baseball Bets on Mobile
Similar to how BAM was early to the game of online TV, the company started working on mobile technology beginning in 2005. That year, BAM created the MLB.com mobile site, allowing viewers to check out scores and news on the go. Only a year later – a full year before the iPhone was rolled out – it launched, “MLB.com Gameday,” its first mobile app, which was delivered to Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon customers. This app included live audio and a scoreboard, which were extremely advanced features when you consider the newness of smartphone technology at that time.
The MLB and BAM have proved to be technological giants, especially when it comes to advances in television and online technology. With so many great technological advances under the organization’s belt, there’s no telling what heights baseball will reach next.