14.Mar.2011 Should We Steal Baseball Feeds?
Eric Gleske, director of Oregon State baseball games, wrote me an email last night, and he brought up some good points. I'm on the fence. I played devil's advocate with him, but at the same time I understand why he's upset. I'll post the dialogue, and look forward to hearing some opinions on this. His original email is posted first, followed by my response (in the blockquote), and then his final retort.
First, let me say that I have thoroughly enjoyed your thoughtful writing about OSU athletics. I agree – there are issues inside of Gill that need to be addressed in many programs; it can be hard some times to be a fan. Your insights and passion combine to create a voice that needs to be heard, by fans, coaches, and administrators. All too often, these groups spend more time hearing each other inside their own echo chamber, which can lead to many often unfortunate results.
That said, I have a bone to pick with. I find it rather duplicitous of you to claim your "Angry" moniker from the position that as a fan you want what's best, or at least better, for OSU, while at the same time actively aiding and abetting those who would take away the ability of other fans to experience, appreciate, and support one of their sports.
I speak of baseball.
I find it ironic, in a manner unflattering to you, that the page on which I found your e-mail address contains the following message: "This site is and will always remain both free and ad free. Donations to help with hosting fees are welcome but never required." You must therefore agree that it takes some level of resources to provide streaming video coverage of the baseball games at OSU, and yet you have, for every home game, provided your readers with a link to see the games for free.
Full disclosure: I'm the guy who sits in OSU's video truck and directs the coverage. I am not an employee of athletics, but elsewhere on campus, hired in for live game day video production work; and, it should be noted, I write this on my own time, in my own words, and for myself.
I direct a crew of interns and others who work very hard – and in today's game against VMI, in almost dangerous weather conditions for the camera operators – to provide coverage of each home game, coverage that has received good reviews from people who watch it. With limited resources, it's perhaps not the coverage I wish we could do, but we do what we can, as the department does not have enough money to support even incremental improvements I would like to see us bring to our coverage. One thing that has helped is that the positive feedback of folks who have subscribed – OSU fans who understand the value we provide and commit to a subscription for the baseball season; if subscriptions fall, it would into be beyond the realm of possibility that the level of coverage would fall in the future – if not go away completely.
For you to espouse from one side of your keyboard your wish for OSU to be greater while on the other side kicking one of the legs out from under their table is a notion disingenuous at its best, and that notion's best should nevertheless be beneath anyone who professes to be a true OSU fan.
I, for one, would appreciate it if you would quit aiding abetting those who are thieves of OSU's products. Speaking only for myself, my crew works hard for the fans of OSU baseball, and I feel our efforts deserve your respect, not theft.
If you feel you have a compelling argument to promote reduced revenues from the baseball video stream, please — enlighten me. I really, really want to know how your repeated support of content thieves will improve things for Baseball, for Athletics, for OSU.
Finally, let me add that I can't wait for the return of Mike Parker, either.
Yours without anonymity,
Directing the baseball stream since 2008=
Personally, I listen to the radio feed because I have an unreliable internet connection.
Maybe your note will hit home with the fans who do use the video and they'll either subscribe or move to radio.
My counterargument would be this: the people who are streaming video very likely don't have the money to pay for a subscription, so if they weren't streaming, they wouldn't be subscribing, either. Also, I haven't looked into the legality of that site. Sometimes if the host is located offshores it's legal to stream. A loophole, but still not illegal. Again, I don't know in this case. A reader actually posted that link in the comment area originally; I didn't go searching for it.
I think a bigger fish to fry would be the person hosting the link, not someone sharing the link. How do OSU fans know if they want to support the baseball team if they can't see it? We pay $60+ a month for cable, many of us add sports packages, and yet we can't get a single game on FSN. And I'm an adult with income. Imagine a student living off loans trying to catch what the new team looks like…bad economy, depressed wages, etc.
I don't run the stream; I just link to it. Last year was the first year in my eight of following OSU athletics that I donated, and I can say a lot of it had to do with finally being able to watch all the teams, including baseball and OOC basketball (via streams). I think you need to realize the people who rely on streams do so because they have to, for financial reasons. 99% of them would move to radio streams before purchasing streams off the official site.
I'd like to post this for discussion though, because maybe I am wrong. Either way, it's a good point.
Last night I used strong words, and I need to be sure that you are clear on one thing: I am taking you to task for posting the links; I am not suggesting that you are affiliated with the pirates. "Aiding and abetting" was a bit harsh…but it certainly gets your attention.
From reading your wonderful posts this past year, I think you would appreciate my choice of modus operandi.
No, I don't mind you sharing my thoughts with others. In fact, I truly believe we create a video stream that is worth the money that a subscription costs. It would be nice if it were free, but that's far above my pay grade – I'm not even in that chain of command or decision making. The kids I train work hard, and provide excellent results given the constraints under which we work. It's a far cry from Fenway Park*, where I used to do production with the the best in the business, but we've got a good little system that works to tell the story of each game for those who can't be at Goss. For those with a crappy connection, the stream will look crappy whether it's paid for or not – still, the subscriptions help bring it to the world.
Although, to be fair, my understanding is that the stream is something of a loss leader, which would make sense, as I can't imagine the subscriber count pays for production costs, as minimal as those are.
Regardless, the individual who is re-streaming the content is in violation of the law. Again, let me be clear: I realize it's not you, you are just providing a link. The pirate streamer is the thief. If they are offshore and hard to get to, it's still theft, and anyone watching the stream from the pirate needs to understand that they are participating in the theft. It is analogous to buying stolen goods from off the back of a truck. If you want to see the stream, go to OSUbeavers.com and sign up. This tells the powers that be that the content is valuable to the fan base, and that resources, in a resource- challenged department, should continue to be allocated for the production of the streaming baseball games.
Again, I speak for myself, and not for athletics. I do know, from being on site in the truck at each game, that the pirate site has been reported and CBS, who is OSU's partner in the streaming side, is looking into shutting it down. That bigger fish is, indeed, being angled for. I do know that in the past there have been issues with the streams as far as quality; basketball, for example. looked rather poor before we stopped streaming when TV coverage kicked in (OSU doesn't stream anything on television, as part of he TV deals). and last year the streaming services were, quite frankly, not working, for the first part of baseball season. But, in large part due to complaints from subscribers, efforts have been made behind the scenes, to improve the IT end of things so that the streams work. So let's give Athletics a hand and make them work on the other side of the equation. That's only fair, don't you think?
Perhaps my comments are rooted in selfishness: I love baseball – it's the best game – and I love being able to bring it to the world via my skills and give the kids a wonderful opportunity to learn about production as much as learning what makes baseball the best game. I would hate for my opportunity to do this is future seasons to erode because the bean counters decide to give up in the face of piracy.
Quite frankly, if it were up to me, it would be a more secure stream, but at the same time totally free, so there would be no incentive to go anywhere but OSUBeavers.com to see the content, and they could probably make up the difference with advertising on the website since they would have all the eyeballs going there for free. But it's not up to me, rather, that's a discussion for those inside the athletics marketing brains…
Meanwhile, keep up the good work.
Thanks for listening,