Major League Baseball, like any good brand steward, vigorously protects its brand marks and how they are used. However, MLB lost its most recent battle of brand protection when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to rule on an Appeals Court decision that upheld fantasy baseball service providers' rights to use the names and statistics of MLB players in their fantasy games. MLB had sought to license the information to the independent fantasy game providers, contending players' names and statistics were intellectual property. The lower courts' opinions maintained that the information is already in the public domain, and free speech rights of independent fantasy baseball companies trumps MLB's rights to control names and stats of its players.
MLB has fought the good fight, now it is time to embrace the fantasy game industry and figure out how it can benefit from independent fantasy game operators. Two huge benefits are evident. One, the independent fantasy game providers are helping to maintain and build interest in MLB. The more people who play fantasy baseball, the more potential visitors there will be to MLB.com as well as purchasers of premium MLB content such a MLB.TV. Committed fantasy baseball players want more information and stats that they can find in the newspaper and even on the Web, and they will often pay to get info that may propel them to the top of their league! Second, competition encourages innovation, both from MLB and other firms. The potential exists for smaller firms to develop new features or games that broaden the market for fantasy baseball.
Today's fantasy baseball market is made up of an estimated 3 million players, which is a fraction of the market for fantasy football (15-16 million). There is room to grow the business, which only makes it more valuable because it would attract more advertising and sponsorship dollars to fantasy baseball... and to MLB. So, rather than feeling as dejected as a batter who strikes out with the bases loaded, MLB should see the potential that exists for fantasy baseball when open competition is allowed.
Link: USA Today "Supreme Court Refuses to Consider Fantasy Baseball Case"
Labels: Sports Marketing