I’ve been watching Ken Burn’s documentary Baseball again recently and am really enjoying it. I don’t get enough baseball in the UK (at least, not without waking up really early), so it’s nice to get some baseball history at least.
I was watching last night a section about how, in the 1930s, Cincinnati Reds Owner Larry McFail brought in radio broadcasts for all games. He brought in Red Barber (they later moved to the Brooklyn Dodgers).
Red Barber said something that applies a lot to the current Open Source (and probably even Piracy models):
“When radio came along, some of the entrenched conservative owners say “Hey, wait a minute. Why give away something something that you are trying to sell for your living? To keep your enterprise afloat? An especially on days of threatening weather when people would say ‘Well, it looks like it may rain. I’ll just listen to the radio and I won’t go.'” They did not realize at that time that it would be creating new fans. That it would be making families of fans. Before radio, by and large, the people who came into a ballpark were men. Once radio came along, and came into the homes, women began to understand the game. They didn’t have to have someone explain it to them–the play by play broadcaster was doing it. And attendance visibly went up when you had families coming instead of single members of the family. And that was the beginning of the impact of radio. Radio made new fans.”
There’s a very entrepreneurial instinct to keep the cards close to the chest and do all of your sales with “Sell, sell, sell”.
When baseball was broadcast on radio, it wasn’t “Free for 30 days” or “Limited functionality”. There was no plan to “Give it away for free now. When people start listening, we’ll charge them.”