'YES’ to Streaming Local Sports

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YES Network became the first regional sports programmer to offer live broadband streaming of a local pro team within its territory on July 8. Tracy Dolgin, president and CEO of the New York Yankees-owned regional sports network, recently spoke with Multichannel.com news editor Mike Reynolds about the deal between Major League Baseball Advanced Media, which controlled digital rights, and Cablevision Systems. The operator’s digital-cable subscribers who get Yankees games on the network and subscribe to its Optimum Online high-speed Internet service may now buy the “Yankees on YES.”

MCN: How long were you talking to baseball about this?

Tracy Dolgin: It’s got to be closing in on a decade. I agree philosophically that anything that is in our footprint that we paid for, as the regional sports network, should be ours. Baseball doesn’t share that philosophy.

MCN: What broke the logjam?

TD: What happened in that last decade was the entertainment landscape is littered with people who sat on their hands and did nothing while this convergence happened. To me, having a log jam in itself is a riskier proposition than having a deal done and having the product out there.

MCN: You started with Cablevision.

TD: We were negotiating the affiliation agreement with Cablevision; they’re the biggest cable operator in the region by far. To have that as the first piece that fit into this puzzle timing-wise made the most sense, as opposed to going to a distributor where we had an existing contract.

MCN: Do you anticipate a lot of other MLB teams will join you and the [San Diego] Padres [who struck a similar deal with Cox Communications]?

TD: I would assume you’ll have more teams doing it, but you’re already running up against August this year so I can’t imagine there’s going to be a ton of deals coming out for this season.

MCN: Would it have been preferable to start April 1?

TD: Absolutely. We just didn’t have the deal done. I wasn’t comfortable that the authentication was going to work.

MCN: The authentication is in the hands of MLB?

TD: It’s a combination of [MLBAM] and Cablevision. As we roll out with new distributors with different products, we’ve got to keep looking for the best way to authenticate.

MCN: What are the early returns?

TD: We only have two objectives for this year. No. 1 is to start on our broadcast educating consumers that there is a way to watch the game when you’re not able to watch it on TV. Objective number two is to make sure that we can do what we say we’re going to do … and have an off-season to basically sit and fine-tune this thing.

MCN: You have collected some?

TD: I couldn’t even tell you what the number is because it’s irrelevant. If the number is too high I’m thinking I’m doing everything right, which we know is not the case. And if the number is too low, I’m thinking I’m doing everything wrong, which is not the case.

MCN: Where do you stand with Time Warner [Cable], Comcast, [Verizon] FiOS?

TD: We are talking to all of them and we’ve got some real interest. And we already have others who said they’re going to do it next season. So I will make a bold prediction: at least one, maybe even two.

MCN: Before the season is over?

TD: Yeah. I mean, that’s my goal.