Monetization Ball: Big League Games to Stream on Airplanes

Southwest Airlines is equipping its fleet to stream the entire major league baseball schedule to their planes — even the faltering A's

Sometimes, when you gotta get away, you chance missing your favorite major league team as they play a crucial series.

Southwest Airlines aims to fix that, as the news came Wednesday that, in conjunction with Southern California firm Row 44, the company is going to wire its fleet for live streaming of Major League Baseball’s entire broadcast schedule.

If that sounds like a niche market, consider that last year’s highest-grossing iPhone and iPad app — across all categories of paid apps — was the streaming service MLB at Bat 2010.

The live video feed, which gave access to every game on the schedule, was accessed 37 million times during its second season. (That was an increase of 236 percent over 2009.)
The Southwest signal would flow to whatever Wi-Fi enabled gizmo you carry, include smartphones laptops, and tablets, for a charge of $5.

“Now you can watch the Mariners lose from 35,000 feet,” hooted the Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog re the 60 wins-75 losses locals, unkindly, before deleting the “lose”.

If the signal was already up, and I was on a familiar LAX-Oakland run on Southwest, I could watch the Yankees play the hated Red Sox — the teams already opened a three games series at  Fenway with a  chippy game that very nearly erupted into a full-on donnybrook, as the Yanks trail Boston by half a game in the American League East standings.

(You can watch Wednesday and Thursday’s Yanks-BoSox tilts starting at 4:10 p.m. PST on ESPN. It's just part of the bitter rivals’ entitlement that they get more national air time, at 17 games each, than any other teams save for the champion Phillies, who match that number.)

Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who some think grew more injury-prone after the banner seasons in which he was admittedly juiced on steroids, will sit out at last the first two games with a sprained wrist.

When I was a young Yankees fan, if you had told me that casual baseball followers would keep closer track of A-Rod's dating life (back with Cameron Diaz, if you must know) than his batting average (.289, with just 14 homers in an injury-hampered season) I would have scoffed.

Also read: Can ‘Moneyball’ Hit a Box-Office Home Run If the A's Stink?

For those anticipating the Sept. 23 release of  “Moneyball,” starring Brad Pitt, the 57-77 Oakland A’s will meet the Indians in Cleveland Wednesday night. (Oakland’s giving a free pass to the movie to all fans who buy a field level seat for the Sept. 18 home game.)

Sadly, as detailed in the Wrap earlier this month, it’s currently a somewhat hapless A’s team who general manager Billy Beane (as portrayed in the film  Pitt) once brought from the dumper into contention.

At the moment, the A’s have dropped four straight, and though they still have a decent player productivity to cost ratio, they’re no model of economic efficiency, ranking near the leagues’ cellar in revenue (though givebacks from the more prosperous teams enabled them to show a $23 million profit last year). Hardly a showcase for the film.

That said, the team does believe in the power of numbers. Even right-handed pitcher Brandon McCarthy, who’s thrown three complete games this season and yet lost them when his team couldn’t outscore the adversary, recently called himself “a statistical anomaly…it’s kind of a bittersweet feeling.”

Probably not unlike the still-respected Billy Beane’s emotions when he watches Brad Pitt portray his glory days.