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January 29, 1998

Send Me Your Money

Hot Stove League TV: you can help make it happen

by Gary Huckabay

So, it's late January, and the Super Bowl's over. The worm-harboring subcutaneous cyst otherwise known as college basketball is beginning to swell and redden, preparing to burst forth into the disgusting froth of pus known as the NCAA tournament. Network television is filled with frenetically paced events like the Senior Skins Game, which appears to consist primarily of badly-dressed men trying to be Don Rickles. The Hollywood Hype Machine is pushing a bunch of what are sure to be limp wastes of time like "Blues Brothers 2000". There's little baseball news, even on staples like SportsCenter, ESPNET, or even talk radio. I mean, for God's sake, CNN is trying to DESCRIBE bad fellatio jokes, trying to gently use the word 'kneepad' with a collective straight face. Did Ionesco write this stuff?

I'm a baseball fan. This is Hell on Earth.

The Baseball Prospectus project is market driven. We produce a premium product, the foundation of which is Clay Davenport's excellent statistical analysis. We add in a limited amount of other things that we think are entertaining and enlightening -- Michael Wolverton's superb Support Neutral Work, the occasional interview with someone the regular media may not pay much attention to, some commentary, some projections, and a few features. But it's all market driven. We're listening to our customer base. We've tried to adopt what you wanted. We've done our marketing homework. Stay with me. I'll try to get to the point here in a few dozen more words.

I'm a DIRECTV customer. For $29 a month and an extra $120 or so during baseball season, I get tons-o-baseball, lots-o-channels, and much better picture quality and sound than I got through TCI/SatanCom, or whoever our local extortionist was. But have you seen some of the hot networks on this dish, or on most cable systems? You've got channels like Home and Garden Television, The Food Network, SpeedVision, and literally dozens of other channels catering to every bleedin' hobby, fetish, perversion, or taste in the world. These stations are unbelievably focused, and generate significant revenue by reaching a very focused audience. Of course, the more general ones run the same advertisements OVER and OVER and OVER again -- their revenue base has got to be next to nothing. Either that, or selling those "Floyd Cramer -- Country and Western Piano Legend" CDs is way more lucrative than I thought.

So why not a hot stove channel? Seriously. I'm sure others have come up with this idea and been shot down by financiers. But bear with me here. Here's some of the information about our target market. If you're reading this, there's an excellent chance that:

  • You're male.
  • You live in a suburb.
  • You spend at least 2 hours per week in the offseason following baseball news.
  • You're between the ages of 16 and 54, probably 25 to 45.
  • You make an annual salary in the 70th percentile or greater.
  • You have cable or satellite television.
  • You spend between $100 and $250 per year on baseball aside from going to the ballpark.
I'm not writing this to show you that we're Big Brother's little buddy or anything. You probably don't fall into ALL of those categories. But you do REALLY LIKE baseball.

Would you watch a year-long ESPNEWS type station devoted STRICTLY to Baseball? I'm talking CHEAP programming -- Japanese League games, perhaps, minor league games, Home Run Derby stuff, old "SuperStars" broadcasts, but mostly interviews and updates on baseball, all year round. If the minor leagues, scouting, college, and even high school baseball were emphasized, would you include it in your clickable set on the remote?

There's about 4 Million people in the country that could realistically buy Baseball Prospectus 1998. The cable and satellite providers in this country are jammed with potential channels as it is. Startup networks are DYING to get distribution of any sort, and are going so far as to give away their ad revenue in huge hunks. But there is a shortage of channels aimed at this particular market segment, and you have a lot of buying power.

So, if you're in favor of such an idea, either send us a check for $40 Million, or call the Fremont Group and tell them they should send an analyst over with a checkbook. I'll be the one in the A's hat counting the seconds until pitchers and catchers report. If you have that $40 Million check, email us, and I'll make sure you get Rany Jazayerli's home phone number.

Oh, and in response to the flood of email: We are not currently looking for interns. At least I'm not.

Gary Huckabay is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Gary's other articles. You can contact Gary by clicking here

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