Hawaii Baseball LLC — the umbrella owner Bob Young’s Hawaii Stars and Na Koa Ikaika Maui teams fall under — recently signed a deal to launch a broadband social network, which would allow fans to connect to their favorite teams and access content not available on television.
The agreement with Players Network, a TV and digital media network, allows HBL and its affiliates to use the network and cross-promote each other.
Besides the Stars and Na Koa, the other independent Pacific Association teams are the San Rafael Pacifics, Vallejo Admirals and BayCal Lumberjacks. Maui beat San Rafael in late August for the league’s championship.
The league is hoping to draw fans from their respective backyards and those in the Far East, including China, Japan, Taiwan and Australia. That groundwork was laid last year, when Hawaii and Maui traveled to Japan for an exhibition series.
During the past season, the Ishikawa Million Stars and Shinano Grandserows, two semipro teams in the Baseball Challenge League of Japan, played as traveling partners. Ishikawa and Hawaii even traded players.
By joining HBL, a fan would become a free member, able to view short clips and interact with teams and players. Paid members could subscribe to live or delayed games. The Hawaii Stars signed a three-year radio deal with New West Broadcasting in June, 2012, but games were not broadcast this season.
The social network deal would allow each team to have an online community, like Facebook with independent baseball as the main topic of conversation.
However, HBL is required to raise money for the partnership, and Players Network would be the HBL Network’s managing partner and operator. There are other strings as well. Players Network would be paid for its production, marketing and distribution services, and own 35 percent of the new network.
“We are thrilled to embark on this new paradigm of 21st Network to reach even more fans of Hawaii Baseball throughout the islands and into Asia as part of our continuing expansion efforts” said Young, managing partner of HBL. “Players Network affords us a remarkable and strategic opportunity to market our brands and styles far beyond the conventional of what exists today.”
“The HBL already has a substantial audience of baseball fans, which is the key to creating successful digital media partners that will fully utilize the power of our platform,” Mark Bradley, CEO of Players Network, said in a statement.
The Hawaii Stars drew just 317 fans for its season-opener against the Shinano Grandserows in June, even with homegrown product Onan Masaoka on the mound.
Hawaii averaged 205 fans for the three-game series. Despite numerous in-game promotions, but little outside marketing, the Stars averaged about 100 fans during the past season. No official attendance numbers were posted on either the team’s website, hawaiistarsprobaseball.com, or the league’s site at pointstreak.com.
A year ago, Young talked about forming an ambitious enterprise called the World Independent Baseball League, which would involve independent teams from around the globe to eventually play for a world title.
The broadband social network could reach those fans in new frontiers. Young is trying to lure Taiwan and South Korea to become traveling partners.
At the luncheon, he said he’s sunk almost $3 million of his family’s money into his vision. The Players Network deal is clearly a step in the right direction. There’s just one catch: HBL needs to fork over more money.