The Chinese Professional Baseball League took the world by storm when it became the first pro baseball organization to begin its 2020 season last month. The games were entertaining enough for American baseball fans, but more importantly, they were free.
Eleven Sports streamed all the CPBL games live on Twitter with English broadcasters, allowing fans who miss Major League Baseball to have something to watch until the MLB season begins.
This morning however, it seemed as if Eleven Sports was having some issues. When I woke up and checked Twitter to see if there was a game still going on, I got a message that the broadcast was not available in my location, and I wasn't the only one.
Scrolling down to see the replies to Eleven Sports' tweet, it seemed as if others were having the same issues, and it looked as if a paywall had been put up for viewer in the United States.
Sending out responses to some of these angry tweets was an account called LIVENow, which claimed that it was now broadcasting CPBL games in the United States.
A quick look at LIVENow's website shows that you have to pay $2.49 to watch a game through their service, which isn't much, but when fans are used to getting a service for free, charging them for it now won't be received well.
The CPBL was a great way for fans around the world to get their baseball fix for the time being, and having free broadcasts in English was a massive opportunity to grow its following. With the KBO, which is considered a higher level of play, starting its season this week and broadcasting on ESPN in the U.S., the CPBL now faces the risk of losing all the fans it has acquired recently.
If the CPBL is serious about growing its brand and keeping fans interested, free streams are the way to go for now, especially as more and more organizations begin their seasons and they have to fight to keep viewers' attention.
Matthew Atkins, Journalist and Baseball fan.