Several months after I finished working for, I found myself debating the regulations imposed by sports leagues. The argument essentially broke down to this question:

Is it more valuable for a league to keep all video content in-house, where it can be tightly controlled, or is there more to be gained by allowing fans access to content to create video mash-ups of their favorite players and moments, thereby increasing user engagement with the brand?

A sign that MLB is slowly warming to the latter, it recently launched Actober.  The video mashup contest site went live just before last week’s All Star Game and allows fans to download clips of great moments in Baseball history and re-cut them with their own re-enactments of the event.

Want to recreate another harrowing moment of Cubs post-season history?  Think that voodoo had something to do with Bill Buckner’s error in the 1986 World Series?  Now’s your chance to show other fanatics with the help of content that would previously have required the MLB’s express written consent.

From now until the end of September, new “Moments” will be released for download in 11 separate contest periods – “Game Winners”, “Best Defensive Plays”, “Best Postseasons”, etc. – at Creators of the top three videos, as judged by Major League Baseball, will win a trip to the 2007 World Series. A separate contest beginning in October will also allow fans to re-create this year’s best post-season moments for a chance at tickets for the 2008 opening day game of their choice.

Personally, I’d like to see a re-enactment of Aaron Boone’s 2003 ALCS at-bat that ends in long fly ball caught by Manny Ramirez, thereby preserving the Red Sox world series chances that year, but Yankee fans will probably have some different interpretations.  So far the sample mashups that have been posted– including the one below– have some charming attributes and hold their own.

Above: Kirk Gibson re-lives his ’88 homerun
Also new for the MLB, video on Actober can be embedded into blogs and other websites.   By allowing fans to download clips directly from and syndicating the content themselves, the league maintains the ability to further control the media by imprinting digital rights management in advance.  Digital fingerprinting of the clips, while allowing user interaction with videos, ensures that MLB retains control over where the clips are displayed (content control is something that professional sports league can definitely get hung up on).

It’s great that MLB is making this memorable content accessible to fans to play with, and it will be interesting to see what they come up with over the next several months.  In a league where last year’s post-season spokesman Tommy Lasorda is replaced by comedian Dane Cook, anything can happen.

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