MLB Advanced Media Ups Its Game Streaming More than Baseball to Mobile

3/12/13Follow @jpruth

[Updated 3/13/13, 9:26 am. See below.] Naturally, there is much ado about baseball at Major League Baseball Advanced Media in New York, especially with spring training underway. But its technology reaches far beyond the bleachers—and even beyond the TV screen.

“Mobile, in our business, isn’t the second screen,” says Matthew Gould, vice president of communications for MLB Advanced Media. “It’s the first screen.”

Last month MLB Advanced Media, the digital media spinoff from Major League Baseball, hosted an event to display updated versions of mobile games as well as apps that let fans keep track of the pro teams playing America’s pastime.

MLB Advanced Media, which has offices at Chelsea Market across the street from Google’s New York headquarters, maintains the Web presence for the league (MLB.com), develops apps, and provides audio and video content to online subscribers. What is not widely known is MLB Advanced Media also works with third parties, such as providing video streams of the often sold-out monthly New York Tech Meetup to audiences watching remotely at General Assembly.

“There are more than 500 people that work at [MLB Advanced Media] here in New York,” Robert Bowman, CEO of MLB Advanced Media, said at last month’s event. “We’re the largest, self-start technology company in this city.”

For the first time ever, MLB Advanced Media is offering its MLB.com At Bat app in 2013 on a BlackBerry device: the new BlackBerry 10. The app offers subscribers live info from all the league’s daily games including details on each pitch. “At Bat is open on average 3 million times a day,” Gould says.

At Bat is one of several apps updated this season by MLB Advanced Media.

Another app being updated this year is At the Ball Park. This free app lets fans who attend games buy tickets, order food, check-in at the parks for t-shirts and other promotional swag, and see maps of the ballparks to find concession stands and first aid stations.

Bowman said technology at all the ballparks is also being updated to connect more efficiently with users of the app. “The new feature this year is you can use your mobile phone to get a seat upgrade on your way in to most parks,” he said. “Don’t like your seat, upgrade it just like you do on a plane.”

[Paragraph added with details on new partnership between MLB Advanced Media and Experience.]

On Wednesday, the company announced it entered into a partnership with Atlanta-based mobile technology company Experience to offer the seat upgrade technology for fans who use the app to purchase tickets. The upgrade service will debut in April for games at the home fields for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Minnesota Twins, and the Oakland Athletics.

MLB Advanced Media was founded in 2000 and quickly made plays on the Web. “Starting in 2002 we were the first company to stream live games and we’ll end up with nearly a million subscribers [watching a day] this year,” Bowman said.

More recently the company has provided services for third parties such as WatchESPN as well as running websites for others. And the technology is not just for the sports world: Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze television network and President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign have both used MLB Advanced Media’s services.

Even with its big-league clout, MLB Advanced Media collaborates with some of the little guys. Local startup PrePlay offers an app in conjunction with MLB Advanced Media that lets users try to predict the outcome of each play during live games.

Though baseball is foremost, MLB Advanced Media is also developing diverse connections across New York’s innovation scene.

In early February, the MLB Advanced Media team took to the stage at the New York Tech Meetup to talk about its technology. Joseph Inzerillo, the company’s senior vice president of multimedia and distribution, shared some of its history.

“2009 was the watershed moment for us technology-wise,” he said. That was when the company brought television-quality video to its online streams and began delivering content to its first connected device, the Roku player.

Today, MLB Advanced Media streams 720p live HD video to computers, game consoles, and mobile devices. Inzerillo said distributing vast amounts of content to a wide audience requires robust architecture.

“We take feeds from satellites, public video networks, private video networks, radio stations, and bring it in to our central hub at Chelsea Market,” he said. That data center is loaded with broadcast equipment and Internet technology, he said, which seems poised to grow delivering content that is not limited to the baseball diamond. “We’re starting to pick up momentum in other businesses,” Inzerillo said.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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  • Michael W. Shore

    MLBAM conceived its mobile strategy in 2005 according to Bowman’s statements this morning on MSNBC. The problem with that is Front Row technology patented it in 2000. MLBAM is not an innovator. It’s an IP thief.