Just as the pennant race heats up, Phillies fans might once again have to log onto their computers to watch the team play.
Online video giant YouTube announced on Tuesday a new exclusive agreement with Major League Baseball to air games during the second half of the season. YouTube will stream 13 games following the All-Star break, and said the dates and match-ups would be announced later. If the Phillies are chosen for one or more YouTube games, it would be the only way for fans to watch.
Similar to a partnership with Facebook, the games will be produced by the MLB Network, so expect Scott Braun on the call handling play-by-play duties alongside a rotating cast of analysts. The major difference is unlike Facebook’s agreement this year, YouTube’s games are exclusive, meaning the only place fans will be able to watch the games will be on MLB’s official YouTube channel and a forthcoming channel on YouTube TV. Fans won’t need a Facebook account to watch the games, which will stream free to anyone with an internet connection in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.
“With Major League Baseball’s expanding international fan base, we are confident YouTube’s global audience will bring fans around the world together in one place to watch the games and teams they love,” Timothy Katz, YouTube’s head of sports and news partnerships, said in a statement.
Last season, MLB aired three Phillies games on Facebook, which drew mixed reviews from viewers due to problems with the on-screen graphics (which were later fixed), and issues relating to the livestream. One Phillies game this season aired on Facebook to fans outside of the Philadelphia market — the team’s April 19 loss to the Colorado Rockies.
The partnership is YouTube’s latest move to increase its footprint in the world of live sports. The Google-owned video site began streaming the World Series in 2017, and in March struck a deal with the NBA to stream games live in sub-Saharan Africa on its NBA Africa page. Three Major League Soccer teams (but not the Philadelphia Union) partnered with YouTube to stream games locally through YouTube TV’s subscription platform, which is $40 a month and includes every ESPN, NBC, and Fox Sports channel.
The league generated 1.25 billion views on its YouTube page in 2018, up nearly 25 percent from the previous year. The most-watched video on the league’s page last year was Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy’s game winning home run in Game Three of the World Series, which landed more than 1.5 million views. But its most popular video overall is a 2014 clip of a young fan giving a decoy foul ball to a girl sitting behind him, which has garnered more than 13 million views.
Say goodbye to yet another sports magazine.
ESPN has decided to pull the plug on ESPN: The Magazine after 21 years. The September issue will be the final edition.
“Consumer habits are evolving rapidly, and this requires ESPN to evolve as well. The only change here is that we are moving away from printing it on paper and sending it in the mail," ESPN said in a statement. "Our data shows the vast majority of readers already consume our print journalism on digital platforms, and this approach will maximize our reach and impact.”
According to Sports Business Daily’s Jon Ourand, there are no immediate layoffs expected as part of the move, though he notes some publishing and circulation employees could end up without jobs come September.
• If you thought Philly sports radio was rough, longtime WFAN host Mike Francesa called in to the station’s morning show — hosted by CBS NFL analyst Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti — and went off in an unhinged rant.
The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand wrote that the call was in response to Esiason describing Francesa as an “idiot” over comments made about New York Giants sixth-round pick, Corey Ballentine, who was injured in a shooting following the NFL draft that killed his friend.
• Comedian Frank Caliendo — known for his impressions of sports personalities like Fox Sports Jay Glazer and ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter — told syndicated radio host Dan Patrick he pranked Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim with an impersonation of Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden ahead of last week’s NFL Draft.
“It was torture," Keim told Patrick. “I felt like I did three or four trades with the Raiders, and I had to call Mike Mayock and realize it wasn’t really them.”