Photographer: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

YouTube Seeks Web-TV Boost Via World Series Sponsorship

  • Google’s video site uses tie-in to promote 40-channel service
  • YouTube’s $35-a-month online TV bundle launched six months ago

Google’s YouTube has signed on as the presenting sponsor for the 2017 World Series, the first national advertising campaign for the company’s cable-like video offering since its March debut.

YouTube will run commercials for YouTube TV during the fall classic, which will air on Fox in late October, as well as ads across Major League Baseball’s websites, apps and stadiums, the company said Tuesday in a statement. The company will also feature professional baseball players in promotions for the $35-a-month service under the deal. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

Already the most popular online video site for free music, news and entertainment, YouTube has targeted sports fans with its live service, which includes about 40 channels. Until YouTube TV, the company didn’t offer the type of popular sporting events that keep many consumers tethered to their cable subscription.

The World Series is the most-watched baseball event of the year. Last year’s final between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians drew more than 40 million viewers, the most-watched baseball program in 25 years.

YouTube TV’s channel lineup includes Fox and ESPN, the most-watched sports network. The service is one of several similar offerings that have entered the market, trying to coax young consumers to take on subscriptions by offering them fewer channels at lower prices over the internet. Dish Network Corp., AT&T Inc., Sony Corp. and Hulu also sell so-called skinny bundles. 

Promotional Race

Those companies are racing to sign partnerships and unveil promotions to attract potential viewers who may or may not be aware of skinny bundles. AT&T’s DirecTV Now is offering HBO for just $5 a month, a discount from the normal price, while Hulu added its live service to the Xbox video-game console in August.

YouTube is mounting its first big advertising campaign for the new service after six months of geographic expansion. Originally available in just five markets, YouTube TV is accessible in 49 of the country’s top 50 markets, covering two-thirds of all TV viewers.

“Everyone is evaluating the right way to add subscribers over time, and build engagement,” Kelly Merryman, YouTube’s managing director of partnerships, said in an interview. “This is our first big national partnership to build brand awareness.”

Partnering with YouTube may bolster baseball’s reach with millennials, a cord-cutting or cord-never group that has proven difficult to crack for sports leagues and teams. The average age of baseball’s television viewer is 57, up four years since 2006, according to SportsBusiness Daily. That’s the oldest of the four major U.S. sports leagues. The National Basketball Association has the youngest average TV audience, at 42.

“When you look at the jewel events, our goal is to make sure our fans, regardless of where they are, what device they’re on, are able to engage with our content,” said Noah Garden, MLB’s executive vice president for business.

MLB Clips

MLB said YouTube is expected to utilize its players and YouTube creators to develop baseball-themed content during the series. The league is no stranger to YouTube as its content has generated more than 1 billion views on the platform this year.

Previously, MLB signed deals with Camping World Holdings Inc., which will sponsor the championship series in both the National and American leagues, Doosan Corp., which will be promotional partner for American League Division Series, and T-Mobile US Inc., which will sponsor the NLDS.

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