Here's What Happened When Mets Owner Fred Wilpon Found Out About Periscope

Major League Baseball, Mobile Live-Streaming May Not Mesh

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Mets' principal owner Fred Wilpon (far left) at Citi Field on Friday.
Mets' principal owner Fred Wilpon (far left) at Citi Field on Friday.
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When Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon found out about live-streaming app Periscope last week, he reacted in a fashion you'd expect from someone whose business depends on broadcast revenue.

"You don't know how quickly, by the way, when I get out of the room…," Mr. Wilpon said, leaving the end of the sentence hanging. Perhaps he was ready to get Major League Baseball lawyers warming up in the bullpen. At one point during the conversation, he jokingly pretended to bolt from his chair. He appeared both amused and astonished.

The room Mr. Wilpon referenced was a suite on the fourth floor of the Mets' Citi Field, where the VC firm Lerer Hippeau Ventures hosted its annual CEO Summit last Friday. In a breakout session called "Digital Strategy in a Mobile First World" someone in attendance asked him, "Are you guys going to allow Periscoping of baseball games?" What followed appeared to be Mr. Wilpon's first in-depth lesson on the mobile live-streaming phenomenon.

"There's an app Periscope on Twitter where you can just turn on a stream, and it will stream whatever you're looking at," said one of the session's participants.

"At any location?" the Mets' owner asked. "In my territory?" And later: "A live game?"

The answers to the questions, in order, are yes, yes and yes.

Scenes mirroring this one are likely taking place across the country thanks to the soaring popularity of the live-streaming apps Meerkat and Periscope. The apps are being used to live-stream everything from everyday life to behind-the-scenes event footage to content with exclusive rights, such as HBO's Game Of Thrones. HBO felt so threatened by such activity, it confirmed last week it issued takedown notices to Periscope.

Major League Baseball, of course, reaps big money from its broadcast TV contracts, and live-streaming from its stadiums could become a problem if people ditch broadcasts in favor of the free streams.

One attendee, though, argued that this shouldn't be a major concern: "I think it's going to be a plus," he said of live-streaming. "You'll see it on Facebook and Twitter, and then maybe you'll go on and turn the TV."