Can Gameday's newest feature teach us anything about the game?
Those of you who follow baseball via the computer—and unless your secretary printed this piece out for you I assume that description fits everyone reading—have probably encountered MLB.com’s Gameday feature. It’s the ingenious little program that tracks each pitch in real time and allows you to follow the action without actually seeing the action.
I’m not sure exactly when Gameday was launched, but I remember using it back in 2000. Gameday has made a lot of improvements since then. When it started, Gameday was a very simple application that wasn’t much more than a moving box score. It looked like this:
Presenting the three filthiest pitches from the first week of the season.
If you followed any games last season on MLB.com’s Gameday application, you saw “Nasty Factor,” which assigned a number to each pitch based on its perceived nastiness. If you have followed any games this season on Gameday, you’ve seen “Scout,” which describes the action like this: “Sergio Romo is having trouble locating his four-seam fastball” and so on. We’re about to watch the three best pitches* thrown in the first week of the season, and, frankly, Nasty Factor and Scout can’t do these pitches justice. So enjoy the moving pictures, and then read the expert analysis provided by some MLB.com apps that are still in development.
Back in January, when Apple finally debuted the iPad after years of speculation, Major League Baseball was one of the few companies invited to demo their application live at the unveiling. After seeing MLBAM's presentation, it was no wonder: At Bat for iPad looked incredible, particularly MLB.tv, and I went as far as to call it "the future of baseball broadcasting."
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MLB's mobile technology is as good or better than the NFL's, but generates far less revenue.
I started touching on this a bit a couple weeks ago in my MLB At Bat review, and at my blog: as good as MLBAM's technology is, and as amazing as At Bat is in a number of ways, MLB is, by all appearances, getting its butt kicked in mobile by the NFL. Yes, the stodgy old NFL, with almost no official presence on the iPhone, is killing MLB—makers of one of the most popular and celebrated mobile apps in the world right now—in the mobile content business.
A look at MLBAM's updated application for iPhones.
With the pressure on, MLB Advanced Media released the latest version of its iPhone app, At Bat 2010, just moments before spring training games began last week. And although it is once again a hit, this new version is without a doubt an evolution, not a revolution. You'll get all of the key features from last year (Gameday Audio, MLB.tv (if you are a subscriber), pitch-by-pitch, box scores, etc.), plus a few new bells and whistles. But most of what you'll find are only slight upgrades to the previous edition.
A closer look at the performance and the possibilities of the upgraded MLB At Bat baseball app.
For sports business and tech nerds, last Wednesday seemed like our equivalent of a man walking on the moon. MLB Advanced Media launched live-game streaming on its MLB At Bat iPhone application, following Apple's long-awaited iPhone 3.0 software update. For the first time, we're now able to watch live baseball on our mobile phones, without any complicated workarounds or external devices. Yes, we are officially in the future.
Major League Baseball struggles to come to terms with a swiftly evolving marketplace where much of what you have to sell may be best offered for free.
Through a number of technological and legal means, [MLB has] tried like crazy to maintain control over what their customers consume. They've failed, like most entities not named De Beers. The result is a huge base of "Open Source" MLB entertainment... Open source has provided MLB with an entirely new engine for generating fan interest, one they could not have developed on their own.
-Gary Huckabay, BP 2009
Making their original content both accessible and free may be the best possible option.
Despite the horrendous economy, MLBAM is actually in a rare sweet spot. The business models that worked for media companies in the twentieth century are on life support, and may be gone faster than anybody had anticipated. (Would you advertise in a newspaper right now?) Every dollar is precious, and companies are looking for advertising mediums that can give them a more quantifiable return. Naturally, most are shifting to the internet, where every action is trackable. So even as total advertising output shrinks, the online pie will continue to grow.
MLBAM is in a great position to take advantage of that, since it already has two robust revenue streams (which is one more than most dominant internet companies). According to BusinessWeek.com, half of BAM's revenue (about $225 million in 2008) came from MLB.tv subscriptions, while the other half came from advertising and "other extras." The MLB.tv business should grow organically; the underlying technology is constantly improving, and high-speed internet access will only become more ubiquitous. At $120, it's a tremendous value-you can't watch six games at once on MLB Extra Innings-so there's no reason to think the product will be anything but an obvious winner. And it will only get even more interesting when internet-enabled televisions become the norm in a couple of years.