MLB and Barstool Sports are discussing a gambling-centric midweek game broadcast, as the sport’s leaders continue to search for ways to appeal to a younger demographic.
While there are many problems with MLB — games are too long, there are too many games, and attending a game is expensive and unrelated to any sense of demand — the one that seems to be in the commissioner’s office crosshairs is appealing to a younger demographic. We’re not as convinced this is a huge issue, but we’re also convinced this can be addressed through pace-of-game upgrades and other rules designed to shorten the length of matches. It’s also clear that MLB does an abysmal job at promoting the young, flashy players adding a lot of pizzazz to the game, like Fernando Tatis Jr. and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The NBA does a far better job at highlighting its younger players, as does the NFL. And, not so coincidentally, you could very persuasively argue both those organizations have led their contests to the top positions in the sports economy.
So while we agree that baseball needs to appeal to a younger demographic, we’re not entirely sure adding a gambling-centric game broadcast from Barstool Sports and owner to Penn National to the mix. Barstool Sports does appeal to a younger demographic, but a significantly male-dominated younger demographic. Barstool Sports serves that bro demographic well with podcasts and other content, but it’s not entirely sure whether it can extend to a wider audience. MLB has plenty of gambling firms in its sponsors–just listen to a game on the radio and you will be surprised when you start counting up the gambling ads–so it’s a sport that’s already accepted gambling as an economic partner.
Which is why a partnership with MLB could be interesting. And it may be more to Barstool Sports’ benefit than MLB’s: will a gambling angle bring bros to MLB, or will exposure to a wider audience–one that may just tune out the gambling angle–bring MLB fans to Barstool Sports? It will be interesting to see if it comes to pass. From the New York Post:
The talks have started recently, and while they have picked up steam, an agreement is not yet a certainty. One source deemed it “50-50.”…
There is one major issue that all potential streamers have to overcome to make in-game gambling a reality. The lag time between live action and the stream must be eliminated if betting in-game is to become a reality.
If the games are nonexclusive, Barstool probably wouldn’t have to do the production, as it could take feeds from regional sports networks (RSNs). Barstool then could produce its own nontraditional, gambling focused broadcast without a play-by-play voice and analysts. Its relaxed approach could feature Portnoy, Dan (Big Cat) Katz and, for say, a Yankees game, Eric Hubbs, who writes about the team for the site.
We’ve advocated several times here for alternative broadcasts designed for certain demographics, like one tailored for stats geeks. So one tailored for gamblers isn’t necessarily that unusual or objectionable, and with the sport’s largest local broadcast partner being gambling firm Bally Sports, MLB cast its lot with legalized betting a long tie ago.
(As an aside: no, a deal with a sports book does not mean Pete Rose is exonerated. He was banned for breaking the rules of the game, and it’s still against the rules of the game to bet on games.)
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