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Braves formally open Digital Truist Park as MLB takes notes

By Erik Bacharach

The Braves launched Digital Truist Park on Thursday, a photo-realistic digital twin of the team’s stadium that is powered by Epic Games’ Unreal Engine technology. A few hundred people, mostly fans, joined the platform for Thursday night’s opening event. The Braves, who have not finalized plans for next events at Digital Truist Park, will dive into feedback and learnings to help inform their next phase of events. Attendees on Thursday could create a customized avatar, freely roam the digital versions of Truist Park and the surrounding Battery Atlanta, and interact with others in the world through either voice or text chat. Gates opened at 6:30pm ET, and the event, which featured a Q&A with Braves P Luke Jackson, team host Mark Owens emceeing and a short video message from Braves President & CEO Derek Schiller, ended around 8;00pm. “This is the first time any of us are doing this together,” Schiller said in a video message that was shared on a screen in centerfield. “So we hope you have a lot of fun. We look forward to seeing you around Digital Truist Park many times in the future.”

MLB JUST GETTING STARTED: All the while, MLB watched closely -- and it will continue to do so as the league looks to draw insights from the first foray into the metaverse by one of its clubs. Both MLB Chief Operations & Strategy Officer Chris Marinak and CRO Noah Garden said they were among the league staffers planning to create avatars and be in attendance. “Given how quickly (the metaverse) is emerging, we're taking a very active, test-and-see approach where we want to be aggressive about trying new things and experimenting across all categories,” Marinak told SBJ. “This experiment with the Braves is really something that's about experimenting and seeing what works with one club and then potentially pursuing that with a lot of other clubs or a lot of other avenues.” Garden said he was excited about the potential of the emerging tech: “From my standpoint, on the revenue side, it's trying to figure out how we can best use the technology to enhance the fan experience moving forward.”

WORKING TOGETHER: MLB was actively engaged with the Braves throughout the development process of Digital Truist Park, which was about two years in the making from the time Braves Senior VP/Marketing Adam Zimmerman and Senior Dir of Marketing & Innovation Greg Mize began work on the project. Marinak said a key for the league was working with the Braves to help incorporate centralized digital assets in a way that would allow them to take a similar approach with another club in the future. The league office hasn’t been the only entity paying close attention to the Braves’ first steps into the metaverse. “I know other clubs are paying close attention, because they've reached out to our office and have said, like, ‘Hey, what's this? Can I do something similar?’” Marinak said. “And we’ve said, ‘Why don't we let this one come to fruition. Let's see how it works. And then try to cascade that into other venues.’ And so I do think you're going to see similar activations in other markets, whether it's later this year or next year. And I do think this is a good foundation for us to start this process by having a really clean experiment.”

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SBJ Spotlight: TikTok’s threat to traditional sports media

While tech companies are consumed with finding ways to compete with TikTok, almost no one in conventional media “spends any time talking about it,” said Recode senior correspondent Peter Kafka in an Spotlight interview with SBJ’s John Ourand. “To me, that’s just an obvious disconnect.” Kafka authored a recent column headlined, “It’s TikTok’s world. Can TV live in it?” He said the main response to TikTok’s growth from traditional media execs has been to “punt and hope it’s someone else’s problem a quarter from now or two years from now.” But Kafka said that ignores the trend of conventional broadcast audiences growing older while a billion younger consumers spend most of their media time watching short video after short video. “If you’re in the business of getting anyone under the age of 30 to look at what you’re putting on a screen, you have to think about the fact that you’re probably asking them to put down TikTok and watch your thing instead,” said Kafka. “That’s a very difficult ask. … [TikTok] is insanely addictive.”

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