In TV advertising, MLB calls its “At Bat” iPhone application “a game changer.” Last week, the day after Apple introduced OS 3.0 for the smartphone, MLB streamed its first live baseball game — the Cubs versus the White Sox.
Streamed baseball games open a new era for the iPhone, which has more than 7 million users. MLB.com, which sells the application for the iPhone and iPod Touch, said it would add live feeds of some games for no additional charge, at least for now.
Owners of the $9.99 At Bat application will at first get to see two games each day chosen by MLB.com. The games are subject to local blackout restrictions.
MLB.com plans to roll out the entire slate of games as the season progresses. The new iPhone software allows its developers to charge users for content from within applications. It is assumed that MLB will charge from some games, though it has not yet revealed its plans.
The game video will play whether an iPhone is connected to a WiFi network or is on AT&T’s 3G network. MLB.com said its servers would detect the strength of the phone’s connection and adapt the quality of the video accordingly. The At Bat application also has DVR features, so users can pause and rewind live games from their iPhone.
The implications for MLB’s direct-to-iPhone distribution are significant. Channel aggregators like FLO TV and MobiTV have tried to act as video middlemen, creating cable type networks within the wireless universe. Such moves have so far been slow to take off.
MLB bypasses that middleman, offering a direct-to-user experience for its sports content. This way the user gets and pays for exactly the content he wants, rather than get a bundled stream of channels.