As a result, the flavour of the month (actually, the last 12-24 months) has been to (re)migrate to a subscription fee model. Getting people to pay for their use and access of online contents, so the argument goes, will provide a more reliable and substantial basis to garner profits from such online activities. However, the move from advertising to a fee-based model has proved elusive. As Craig Moffett, a media guru at Sanford Bernstein, said in a recent interview, content owners tend to talk a good name when it comes to charging users, but the actual evidence about how widespread the implementation of this change of approach has been is extremely spotty. It is not so easy to convince someone to pay for something that it has previously received for free.
According to Anthony, a decade ago Major League Baseball (MLB) took the step of creating a free-standing entity called Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), to which all 30 teams signed over control of their digital assets. Each of the teams then forked over to MLBAM a million dollars a year, for several consecutive years, to fund MLBAM's activies. The purpose of MLBAM was then to find ways to monetize the baseball experience in the digitial context.
What followed was a variety of different efforts to make money online from the use of the sporting contents, starting from audio feeds, moving on to streaming visual feeds, expanding the platform from the computer screen to the iPhone, providing condensed forms of the game, giving mobile alerts, and supplying virtual play-by-play coverage. All the while, the business model focused on extracting subscription fees from baseball fans as the primary means to fund these various forms of provision of on-line contents.
And so the question: Just how central can the MLBAM model be for generating sports revenues from providing online content? Stated most generally, will online content for sports events replace or complement income from other sources? Fans will continue to pay for tickets to see the live event; television and cable will continue to broadcast the sporting event to a much wider circle of supporters; and club paraphanelia will be merchandised, at least for the most prominent clubs. It does not seem to me that the various online MLBAM content products will replace these sources of income.