Even if advertisers don't flock to the channel, MLB house ads are expected to pitch products to Japanese fans of players like Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui.
Major League Baseball's new YouTube channel for Japan will serve primarily as a branding vehicle for the professional sports organization, but the MLB is also trying to monetize it through corporate sponsorship.
The sports content deal, announced this week, is the largest in YouTube's history and the first between the two companies. It will result in full games, offered free and on demand in Japan for 36 hours after live broadcast. Centered on the YouTube.com/MLBGlobal URL (not available in U.S.), the deal also gives baseball fans in Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, and Russia access to highlight clips and archives on the Google-owned video site.
Ad formats will include pre-roll, in-video, and AdSense for video, a YouTube spokesperson told ClickZ via e-mail "We are actively speaking with potential sponsors," the spokesperson said. "Sponsorships will likely differ per [country/region], and our traditional forms of advertising like AdWords are IP-targeted, so users are likely to see different ads in their regions."
If MLB's behavior on its own video sites is any indication of how it will treat its YouTube channel, then it will certainly run house ads for its Japan-dedicated site, MLB.JP. Also expected to receive a push is the league's cross-market international e-commerce site, MLBShop.com.
Merchandise-wise, the league can only hope the YouTube channel helps it further capitalize on the immense popularity of Japan-born MLB players like Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and others in their homeland. To help fans track the performances of such players, short highlight reels of their top plays from the day will be available via the channel.
Generally, MLB.JP will feature current season games, a full archive of the entire 2009 season, a variety of short-form video such as condensed games, and "FastCast" - a quick recap of every game played on a given day. Videos from MLB.com’s historic library will also be available, offering some of baseball's more memorable moments like when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record in 1974. As more Japan-centric examples, fans can also watch Hideo Nomo’s first MLB game on demand as well as Hideki Matsui’s MVP-performance in the 2009 World Series.
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
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