I wrote a similar blog over the weekend, strictly from a sports fan perspective. This blog posts looks at the business and marketing side of what I consider a bad move by Major League Baseball (MLB).
As a huge baseball fan, I have been complaining about this all week. There were 2 postseason games last week that had a start time of 9:30pm EST. THAT IS 9:30 AT NIGHT!!! How are kids and people who have jobs supposed to watch those games? What about older folks?
8:00pm- 1 game scheduled
8:30pm- 4 games scheduled
9:30pm- 3 games scheduled
I know (and understand) that baseball is a business and that paid advertising is a big part of that business. But I cannot help feeling the “powers that be” in baseball are looking at the overall picture of the business with a very short-sighted lens.
Kids, and their rooting interests, are the future of baseball. Working people, and their rooting interests, are the present of baseball. And older folks, and their rooting interests, are the icing on the cake—they watch because they have been watching for years.
With these late start times, Major League Baseball is pretty much saying that they don’t care about their fans—those who have supported their teams or baseball, in general, for the entire season. They are placing their business interests well before their fans. They are literally making their product difficult to access for the average “customer”. When they do this to their fan base, they are opening the door to the possibility of waning interest. MLB’s fans are their customers and they are pushing their customers away by making their product “hard to get”.
I am not a good example of the average baseball fan because I, literally, watch 162 NY Mets games a year…win or lose. Then I flip over to the Arizona D-Backs game often. So I watch a large number of baseball games. MLB will probably not lose me for the playoffs and World Series. But…who WILL they be losing? And will they be able to get these customers back at a later date?
What about the average fan, particularly if their team has not advanced to the postseason? What about the casual fan who will tune in because it is the postseason, but those are just about the only games they watch all year? These are the people you want to get interested in baseball and you want to keep them interested. MLB may not have had them as a fan, and by extension a customer, last year…they should want them as a customer this year and for many years to come.
If a business makes access to their product difficult and opens up the possibility for customers to find out they CAN “live” without the product, this business may never get their customer back. Customers will replace their product with something else.
Why would you risk it? Why would Major League Baseball risk it? As it stands now, football is the favorite American sport. Millions of people tune in to see even the commercials for the Super Bowl, which the same cannot be said for baseball’s postseason.
Take a look at this article I read today, comparing the MLB postseason TV ratings to NFL regular season games. If this is not a wake-up call to baseball and these late night scheduled games, I don’t think they will ever get it.
Specific to baseball, think of all the times kids ask for stuff—baseball caps, team and player jerseys, t-shirts, baseballs etc. Christmas is coming up soon. There are birthdays. You get the point. Once this child’s interest starts to wane, they will no longer request these items. If they start out early, there are YEARS of purchases to come. My 8 year old nephew, Robby, is a perfect example—he is so into baseball right now and watches the Mets everyday, as well as the Washington Nationals. He pours over stats in the newspaper and he and his 2 friends recited to me various baseball stats (of all teams) this past summer. None of these 3 boys can stay up late enough to watch some of those games. What a shame that they cannot watch the teams they have been following all season. This is not good for the business of baseball either.
Working people are the ones who pay to go to the games and pay for all the merchandise (not to mention beer and food at the games). If they lose interest over time because they cannot stay awake to watch these games, in the long run MLB loses.
And older folks tend to be the glue of the family that keeps people interested in the sport and in their team. What happens to the business of baseball if they lose interest because they cannot watch these games?
I wonder what the lifetime value of each of these customers is. Or is Major League Baseball going for instant gratification—the quick cash grab? In the long run, this is most likely not beneficial to the business. The quick “fix” is usually not the best route in the long run for a business.
This is a pretty emotional time for the Atlanta Braves team and fans, with their long-time manager retiring after this season. This is the first time in a couple of years that they have been back to the postseason. And 3 of their games are scheduled for a 9:30pm start. If this were my team in the playoffs, I would be so bummed out about that.
Baseball has done some good things, like not agreeing to make the MLB Extra Innings package exclusive to Direct TV (and in the process, excluding many fans). I just wish they would wake up and understand what they are doing to their loyal fans (who are also their loyal customers).
All I am saying is, in any business, you really need to consider who you customers are and treat them as if they are important. If you do not do that and they do not feel important, you may lose them. And when you lose them…good luck getting them back.
Here is an article on the subject in USA Today. Other than his bad picks for the postseason, I do think his article is spot on.
As he says “TV midnight baseball is no way to get fans”. And…getting and retaining fans is the name of the game, for the long-term health of the business of baseball.