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MLB’s YouTube Game Live-Streams Averaged 1.2 Million Views This Season

Did Major League Baseball’s first batch of exclusive game broadcasts on YouTube knock it out of the park — or were they just a decent digital at-bat?

Overall, across 13 MLB games live-streamed on YouTube during the 2019 season, the live average number of views was 1.2 million, including pre- and post-game shows. Total average minute audience (AMA) across the games was 130,000; the peak concurrent viewer average was 171,000. (The figures exclude YouTube’s live stream of the Braves vs. Nationals night game Sept. 13, which also aired on the MASN regional sports net.)

YouTube’s most-watched game on YouTube was the Aug. 7 meeting of the Cardinals at Dodgers, which had just over 320,000 live peak concurrent viewers. YouTube wouldn’t disclose total number of live views for this game — which the Dodgers won 2-1 on a walk-off hit — but the on-demand version has nearly 1.7 million views to date.

“We’re really happy with the success of the entire partnership,” a YouTube rep said.

What do the numbers mean? It’s hard to compare YouTube’s reported viewing metrics to TV. The closest is AMA: For the 2018 regular season, Fox averaged 2.23 million viewers for MLB broadcasts and MLB Network averaged 239,000. So YouTube, with an average minute audience of 130,000, didn’t deliver TV-size numbers. Some things to consider: Only two of the 13 games on YouTube were in a national U.S. primetime window — the rest were weekday day games or late-night East Coast matchups, which would be expected to have lower draws. On the other hand, YouTube streamed the games globally whereas the TV viewing figures cited are for the U.S. only.

YouTube offered the 13-game package globally (with the exception of about two-dozen countries and territories) with exclusive distribution rights in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. The games and related pre- and postgame shows were produced by MLB Network for YouTube.

The pact extended the league’s ongoing partnership with YouTube. This year, YouTube TV again will be the presenting sponsor of the World Series (as it was in 2017-18) with prominent branding in Fox’s TV broadcasts of the games. In addition, YouTube TV last year added MLB Network to the channel lineup of the $50-per-month package.

MLB has been live-streaming games since 2002 on the MLB.tv subscription service. The league launched its YouTube channel in 2005 and last year it garnered 1.25 billion views, up almost 25% from the year prior.

In August, MLB launched its first lifestyle-driven YouTube channel, based on its Cut4 brand after previously launching on Twitter and Instagram. Original content on Cut4’s YouTube channel features ballplayers engaging in oddball stunts (like Miami Marlins sluggers smashing fruit with bats a la “Fruit Ninja” during spring training) and personality-driven videos, like breakdowns of player fashion and first-person diaries.

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