Some fun news report today. As of Monday morning, the Cubs and their digital content team are re-launching their YouTube channel. I was part of a select group in attendance at the team’s Wrigley Field offices for a Sunday pre-screening of the first wave of content the team will release today (more on that in a subsequent post).
Most of the videos are of the short-form variety and designed to drive fan engagement while building a pipeline of easily-ingestible programing for current and future generations of Cubs fans. They’ve already released some teaser trailers like the one below, and new content will be released every Thursday.
YouTube is an obvious choice to promote the Cubs brand and to engage their fans. The video distribution platform is the world’s second largest search engine, right behind Google and ahead of Bing and Yahoo.
“It’s really a precursor to our network channel because it’s a chance for us to do long-form programming,” president of business operations Crane Kenney shared with the media last Thursday. “You’ll see a whole bunch of features on there because the (network) is (starting) in 2020.”
Smart marketing tactics have always been a very important aspect of branding the team beyond its local fanbase, going back to when WGN emerged as a superstation on cable television systems across the country in the 1980’s. YouTube represents the natural progression of that concept as more and more upwardly mobile individuals are turning to portable devices to access content. Some of the more viral content will undoubtedly find its way to the team’s RSN when it launches next year.
“The YouTube channel will give [Cubs Productions] a chance to start stretching their legs a little bit in a more direct-to-consumer way,” Kenney added. “Obviously the network is the next step.”
Before you ask: No, the Cubs will not be broadcasting live games via their YouTube channel. MLB holds the distribution rights to all broadcast games. Until recently, the league and its advance media arm also controlled the content made available to fans through team digital broadcast channels. That’s changed, and the Cubs are now using their own production team to create exclusive content for this new venture. Their digital production team remains one of the best voices in social media across all team sports.
Film crews followed players during the offseason to capture some of the human interest stories you’ll see. They’ve also been filming at the club’s spring training facility in Mesa. You’re undoubtedly familiar with their work if you’ve watched any of the amazing hype videos they’ve produced during the past few seasons.
An example of some of the player-heavy content you’ll be able to access starting today includes:
- The Offseason – Follow the offseason adventures of Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Jon Lester and Pedro Strop for a look into their non-baseball lives. The Strop episode will be the first to run.
- Call to the Bullpen – An advice column show where two players “answer” the bullpen phone and provide experience and wisdom to fans who have questions on most subject matter, whether it’s affairs of the heart or deciding to drop or not drop a g-note to attend a friend’s destination wedding.
- Make It Cubs – A craft show (I swear) where you can view how-to tutorials designed to add a little team bling to your art projects.
- The Breakdown – A recap content vehicle that does a great job of putting the viewer in-the-moment, so to speak, with the players, plots, and subplots of extraordinary in-game plays. First up: The walk-off grand slam by David Bote against the Nationals. The episode will give you chills as you watch it unfold through Bote’s eyes. You’ll love the coaching staff’s approach to analytics (and hunches) that lead up to each defining moment in that fateful ninth inning.
- Cubs & Pups – It’s what you think it is but with a slight twist. Cubs players and their pets are featured, but the interviews are conducted by human pups! The first episode features Javier Baez being interviewed by a young man who is about seven years old. Yes, it is exactly as heart-tugging as it sounds. Spoiler alert: the Baez household includes seven dogs.
- Cubs Top Ten – An episodic, recap content show that provides top ten lists geared toward creating viewer discussion and debate. The first episode is a list of the ten greatest Cubs comebacks during the Joe Maddon era.
- Bae vs. Ballplayer – The Cubs digital team has created a very Cub-centric game show, similar to the old Newlywed Game in concept, hosted by a player and pitting another player vs. the host’s wife or girlfriend to win fabulous prizes. In the initial episode, Anthony Rizzo squares off against Jessica Bryant with husband Kris hosting. Each answers a series of points-weighted questions in an effort to win a one-of-a-kind (I hope) fleece throw.
The Cubs YouTube channel is designed to be a quality-over-quantity platform, and the team hopes to rapidly build a subscriber base. The benefit of subscribing is to get first run content alerts through emails, texts, and push notifications. The content is free, and subscribing is as easy as following this link.
Cubs News & Notes
- Kris Bryant has been named the team’s most indispensable player by MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince.
- The Brewers beat the Cubs 7-5 yesterday in a game that neither team seemed to genuinely want to win.
- Chicago trails Milwaukee in the development of homegrown pitchers, too.
- Contrary to current conversations surrounding the ballclub, the Cubs can still compete with the top teams in baseball. Everything seemed to go wrong last year, and they still won 95 games. Don’t be surprised to see Chicago playing into late October.
- Joe Maddon appears to be reinvigorated this spring and is not worried about his impending free agency as he manages on the last year of his contract.
- Kyle Schwarber has quietly emerged as the team’s everyday left fielder. I’ll be interested to see how War Bear compares statistically with Bryce Harper at the end of the season.
- Schwarber is a candidate to be the Cubs’ leadoff hitter this year.
- Yu Darvish talks, walks, and looks like a completely different player on and off the field as compared to last spring, and that’s a good thing.
- Could one or more of Tyler Chatwood, Brandon Kintzler, and Brian Duensing have bounceback seasons? The trio will eat up about $20 million in payroll this season.
- The Rangers have tabbed Mike Minor to be their Opening Day starter against the Cubs on March 28.
- Brandon Morrow could throw a bullpen session before the end of the week. March 25 was originally penciled in as the target date for Morrow’s first bullpen session of the spring, so it appears his rehab could be slightly ahead of schedule.
- Anthony Rizzo would like to remain a Cub for life. Jed Hoyer recently hinted that the front office is working behind the scenes to possibly extend the contracts of some of their core players. Rizzo is currently on a very team-friendly deal that pays him $11 million this year. The team holds $14.5 million options for 2020 and 2021 and he appears to be a great candidate to be long-termed.
- Xavier Cedeno has been sidelined for 7-10 days and will likely miss Opening Day. The reliever is suffering from a left wrist ailment.
- Cubs prospect Nico Hoerner is on an unprecedented and unsustainable offensive roll this spring. The rookie could be on a fast track to the major leagues this season.
- Cole Hamels is not a fan of the rules changes that will take place in the independent Atlantic League this year, including one that will add two feet to the mound-to-plate distance at midseason.
Spring Training News & Notes
Harper got his first game action of the spring, was generally pitched around, and faced a four-man outfield shift when he reached a count of two strikes in his at-bats against the Blue Jays.
After a red-hot beginning to his spring that included an opening game home run against his former team, Troy Tulowitzki has cooled off considerably. The current Yankee is 0-for-11 with four strikeouts since starting 3-for-6 with two home runs.
Dodgers pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler are aiming to be ready before the team breaks camp. Kershaw has been fighting an ailment in his pitching shoulder and Buehler is healthy, but on a very limited workload.
It’s Daylight Savings Time, and if the imparting of this information is news to you at this juncture you are more than likely an hour late to be somewhere as you read this. But is it necessary to save daylight in this day and age? Springing forward seems obsolete and unhealthy. It’s also legitimately confusing. A friend told me on Saturday, “As Native Americans will tell you, only non-indigenous Americans believe that a blanket will be longer if you cut a foot off the bottom and then sew it to the top.”
The century-old law may change soon, however. The national policy of adding and subtracting an hour every six months is under legislative challenge. Multiple initiatives in Congress and in statehouses could terminate our current system of time toggling. Give me back my damn hour, please and thank you.
Monday Walk Up Song
Thing of Beauty by Hothouse Flowers. The band started out as a busking trio on the streets of Dublin in 1985 and by 1986 had the full support of Bono and U2, who released the band’s debut single on their own Mothers Records label. The U2 frontman secured a deal with Polygram Records for the trio and the Flowers’ first album became the most successful debut release in Irish history.