FrontOfficeSports – In the best-selling “Moneyball,” author Michael Lewis portrayed the Oakland A’s as famously willing to abandon old ways of doing business. The A’s are at it again, becoming the first MLB club to ditch terrestrial radio in favor of internet streaming audio.
The A’s made headlines last week announcing they’ll exclusively stream all of their games in the Oakland/San Francisco market for free on TuneIn this season – while cutting ties with local radio station KTRB. “Fans are consuming media differently and we have to adapt to meet those needs,” A’s President Dave Kaval said in a statement.
The A’s and TuneIn launched a 24/7 channel dubbed “A’s Cast” last season. It grew into MLB’s No. 1 team podcast, with 650,000 downloads, and marked the first time the A’s boasted the league’s most popular and downloaded property.
During the off-season, TuneIn met with the ballclub to discuss testing exclusive streams of A’s games this season. The two sides were so impressed by the 2019 results they agreed to bypass the test phase – and name TuneIn the club’s exclusive audio distributor for the 2020 season.
This is a fascinating move by the A’s and to be perfectly frank it’s about time they did something radical because you can only lean on “Moneyball” as your sole contribution to society for so many years.
This will be a challenge for older fans who don’t know their ass from their elbow when it comes to technology, but if baseball is going to avoid the fate of prize fighting and horse racing it’s going to have to start adopting radical new ideas.
For anyone under the age of 40 though this is not that crazy of a change at all. You know how often I listen to a Red Sox game on the radio? Almost never except for when I’m sitting in traffic. I don’t even own an actual radio so anytime I’m listening to sports talk outside of my car is either on my iPhone or streaming over my Google Home at my house. A free streaming service is long overdue for baseball because if you don’t actually own a radio like me you’re shit out of luck unless you’re in front of the TV, in your car, or a paying MLB.TV subscriber. There is always the workaround of streaming on your laptop through your TV provider, but thats not exactly easy to access for anyone let alone a digital nomad.
If you’re a cynic you could argue this frees the A’s up from any local contractual obligations aside from their dump of a stadium, which could make it even easier for them to leave town. It’s like someone cutting the cord and signing up for YouTube TV as their main cable provider. No contracts and take it with you anywhere you go. Fair point.
The money they lose from licensing their broadcast rights to a radio station is a valid argument, but I’m sure TuneIn isn’t getting this for free so that’s not a huge deal. If your argument is the team will lose visibility and awareness because they’re no longer on terrestrial radio, well then pardon my french but you’re fucking out to lunch. I would say more than half of the time I’m in my car I’m listening to music or a podcast on my phone. Add in the fact that we are all constantly connected via text, twitter, Instagram, Facebook, ESPN push notifications etc. and there is almost nothing I become aware of because of the radio. The A’s will do just fine without being on an AM dial.
Not to mention the broadcast quality is going to sound world’s better. I was kind of joking about how the A’s will be fine not being on the AM dial, but their former radio broadcast partner KTRB is literally 860 AM in Oakland. That is preposterous in 2020. WEEI in Boston made the jump from 850 AM to 93.7 FM back in 2013 and the improvement in audio quality was titanic. AM signals usually sound like you’re broadcasting from a truck stop bathroom so digital streaming will be a slight upgrade over that.
The A’s could once again be paving the way for other teams to take their idea and achieve much greater success running with it if Moneyball is any indication. So I applaud the A’s for trying something new in a sport so averse to change.