Stream shows consciousness

MLB made a rare move that may help it appeal to a younger audience.

MLB made a rare move that may help it appeal to a younger audience.
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When I told my mom about the reports of NBC’s impending $30 million deal to stream a dozen and a half Major League Baseball games on Peacock, she groaned. More streaming, more annoyance when all you want to do is just turn on the TV and see the ballgame.

When I told my kids the news, they were excited. They just watched a lot of the Olympics on Peacock, and they’re masters of the remote control for streaming apps… less so when it comes to this alien concept of “channels” that are assigned “numbers.”

I lean more toward my mom’s point of view: just put the baseball in the same place and don’t make us have to hunt down our games, and don’t make us pay for three different services just to be able to watch our favorite team all summer.

I also understand that this deal isn’t about those of us who were born in the 20th century. Streaming games early on Sundays is the best way for MLB to reach kids in a way that baseball simply hasn’t been for years.

Part of that is baseball’s own fault, and not even because of today’s youngins with their short attention spans and the video games and the Facegram. It’s because almost every team in the majors schedules the bulk of its Saturday home games at night.

When your sport starts at 7 p.m. on and lasts three-plus hours, it means that a lot of kids, even when it’s summer vacation, aren’t getting to stay up until the end of games. And when you’re competing against all of those other factors for kids’ eyeballs, abandoning Saturday afternoon is corporate negligence. If teams don’t want to go with back-to-back early-afternoon contests, the 4 p.m. window is always right there.

Scheduling feeds into the other good part of the Peacock deal. With the streaming games starting as early as 11:30 a.m. on Sundays, there’s no way that teams are going to play the Saturday nights beforehand. And maybe those afternoon games won’t get the same ratings, but they’ll be getting in front of the right eyeballs for the game’s future, just like the ones on Peacock the next day.

A home run of an idea

It’s not official, because a format would have to be decided by MLB and the Players’ Association, but having a tied All-Star Game decided by a home run derby, rather than by a used car salesman throwing up his hands, is a no-brainer.

There’s still more to fix about the All-Star Game, which is either a rout or decided late by reserves instead of the game’s very best, but the All-Star Game is absolutely the place to try gimmicks. The NBA has the Elam Ending. The NHL goes 3-on-3. It’s time to recognize that the Midsummer Classic has to evolve into something more than just the two leagues playing against each other, when we’ve had interleague play for 25 years.

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