If there is a 2020 MLB season, viewers can expect even more portions of the field to be covered with virtual ads.
According to the Sports Business Journal, MLB is talking about adding as many as *six* virtual ad placements this year (again, assuming there are games, which is no certainty) to provide make-goods for its advertisers.
SBJ reports that the possible places for virtual signage include behind the pitching mound, the foul territory between both first and third base and home plate, behind the plate above the standard signage, the center field batter’s eye, and somewhere else in the outfield.
While some of these would look weird, the concept of virtual ads as a whole isn’t a new one. For instance, YouTube TV has been plastering ads on the batter’s eye for awhile now during the World Series.
They’re also quite common in European soccer, as you can see in this screenshot from the 2019 FA Cup Final.
Or in this screenshot of Bundesliga action between Dortmund and Wolfsburg from last weekend.
All in all, I don’t have much of an issue with virtual signage behind the plate (since we’re already getting signage between the plate) or on the batter’s eye (since, to some extent, we’re already getting virtual ads on the batter’s eye). Ads in foul territory might be a little strange, since TV cameras only get a good look at the foul territory when an infield pop-up is hit, and ads could distract viewers from the actual play. Ads behind the pitchers mound sound like an absolute disaster, especially if they pop up every time a ground ball is hit to an infielder. And then there’s the random outfield ads, which would presumably be on the wall (fine), out of play (also fine), or smack dab in either gap (which could be an utter disaster).
If anything, I think this was a long time coming, and I’d be shocked if MLB doesn’t follow through and if other leagues don’t follow suit. Fields and stadia have so much real estate that hasn’t been covered with ads, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if, in an attempt to make even more money or stem losses from playing in front of fans, those empty patches were slapped with logos.