Regional sports networks are the unsung heroes of Major League Baseball’s media economy.
While national networks like Fox Sports and ESPN bigfoot baseball’s biggest events like the All-Star Game, postseason, and World Series, the RSNs cover their home teams day in, day out.
It could be seen as poetic justice that the New York Yankees’ own YES Network will exclusively televise tonight’s Pittsburgh Pirates game, in which superstar Aaron Judge could tie — or pass — Roger Maris’ American League record 61 home runs.
YES will offer two versions of the game tonight: The network’s main cable telecast will star YES’ lead announce team of Michael Kay, Paul O’Neill, David Cone, and Meredith Marakovits (7 p.m. ET).
But fast-growing Jomboy Media will also take over the YES app for a live “Jomboy-Cast” stream of the game, according to Jared Boshnack, YES’ vice president of production.
Alternative telecasts like ESPN2’s “ManningCast” of “Monday Night Football” and Dude Perfect’s version of “Thursday Night Football” are becoming increasingly popular.
Jimmy “Jomboy” O’Brien and creative partner Jake Storiale will offer their own distinct spin alongside the main telecast — part of YES’ strategy to chronicle Judge’s historic HR chase from all angles.
Boshnack thinks the network’s expanded coverage will be closely tracked by other RSNs.
“We know this team better than anybody else. So we’re documenting it every step of the way,” said Boshnack.
The alt-cast is part of a new business partnership between YES and Jomboy, which boasts nearly 1.7 million subscribers on YouTube.
Matt Duarte, YES’ vice president of strategy and business development, said Jomboy is a “great fit” given the overlap in their respective audiences.
“We thought it would be really cool to take that to the next level and have them do an alternative-cast of the game. They can speak directly to our fans while the game is going on,” Duarte said.
YES, the nation’s largest RSN, has been leaning into Judge’s home run chase from a coverage, production, and marketing standpoint.
The 30-year-old Judge has agreed to daily interviews with Marakovits, according to Boshnack.
On the surface, the humble star seems to be bearing up to the pressure better than the tightly wound Roger Maris, whose hair famously fell out during his nerve-wracking chase of Babe Ruth in 1961.
“He’s been great. Incredibly accountable. He speaks with us every single day — whether the camera is on or the camera is off. He grants us access on-field after games and in the clubhouse,” Boshnack said.
“He knows our people very well. Our lead broadcasters…and he’s able to separate the task at hand from the overall job. The job is not just performing on the field. It’s understanding the fan base is craving every piece of information it can possibly get. And we’re there to chronicle it.”
YES has been posting an animated graphic every time Judge belts a homer, notifying viewers how close he is to the late Maris’ AL record of 61 home runs.
Meanwhile, YES’ promotional department has been running a Judge-focused ad campaign since the midway point of the season.
One TV spot shows No. 99 belting HR after HR punctuated by Kay’s signature “See ya!” call from the broadcast booth. “He’s not just on pace to get to 61. He’s on pace to shatter that HR record. Shatter it,” notes Kay on the spot.
- YES’ telecast of the Bronx Bombers 9-8 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates Tuesday night (featuring Judge’s 60th homer), averaged a monster 539,000 total viewers, the network’s best primetime telecast in four years.
- With Judge leading the way, YES is averaging 350,000 TV viewers per game, up 22% from the same period last season. That marks YES’ best year-to-date delivery in 11 years.
- Out of the 114 Bronx Bombers games televised by YES this season, 36 have averaged over 400,000 viewers.
- The YES app is experiencing a big year too: Unique viewers are up 33% this year, according to spokesman Eric Handler.
- Total time spent streaming Yankees games rose 13% while live stats impressions are up 151%.
YES will exclusively televise tonight’s Pirates game and Saturday’s day game against the Boston Red Sox. MLB Network will show the game outside YES’s footprint in the New York area.
But MLB’s national TV partners Fox, ESPN, and Apple have the rights to three of the next five games.
If Judge breaks the record on Friday, there will be no “See ya!” from Kay — Apple will exclusively stream the game.
On Sunday, ESPN will get the last of the four-game Red Sox series for “Sunday Night Baseball.”