Satellite broadcaster DIRECTV is pitching a new interactive baseball application. It is currently only available in New York and the surrounding region, but a similar approach could be adopted by other regional sports networks.
The first ever interactive television service covering Major League Baseball is now available as part of New York Yankees broadcasts on the YES Network, broadcast by DIRECTV within the Yankees home television territory, including New York and Connecticut and areas of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
It is a co-production between YES Network, DIRECTV and MLB Advanced Media, which operates MLB.com, the official web site for Major League Baseball and which provides data for the interactive television service.
A special feature is a split-screen ‘bonus cam’ which will feature exclusive coverage only available through the interactive service.
It “puts Yankees fans in the director’s chair,” according to Ray Hopkins, chief operating office of the YES Network.
The YES Network has been the most-watched regional sports network in the United States for the last three years. In addition to New York Yankees and New Jersey Nets baseball games, YES televises other professional and collegiate sports teams and events, as well as classic sports footage.
Needless to say, there will be plenty of on-screen scores, statistics and background information which are such a feature of the game.
“Beyond the action on the field, the story of baseball is told through its statistics, box scores, team standings and the personalities of its players, and Yankees fans now have all of that information at their fingertips,” said Eric Shanks, executive vice president of DIRECTV Entertainment.
“We believe this is the future of sports TV programming — a deeply engaging viewing experience where fans have the ultimate in convenience, control and quality — and we can’t think of a better or more appropriate way to begin the interactive TV revolution than with the YES Network and the most storied franchise in baseball.”
A choice of alternative camera angles has often been touted as a potential benefit of interactive television, although experience in the UK consistently suggests that viewers may be less interested in such features. In fact, the most popular function is generally the ability to choose an alternate commentary or even enjoy natural stadium sound.
The US market may be different, and there is certainly a demonstrable demand from viewers for in-depth statistics. Becoming their own television director or for that matter graphics operator is however a whole new ball game.