Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Coming Soon to Your iPhone: Major League Baseball for a Dollar a Game

mlb-iphone-appIf you’re out of town and on the move and still want to watch your favorite baseball team, Major League Baseball is about to make you a very interesting offer: The ability to watch a game streamed live to your iPhone, for 99 cents a pop.

Bob Bowman, CEO of Major League Baseball Advanced Media–pro baseball’s standalone digital media company–tells me iPhone and iPod touch users will soon be able to buy individual games. The feature will be added to the company’s existing MLB.com app and will roll out as soon as Apple (AAPL) finishes approving the update, which Bowman expects to happen within the next few days.

As far as I know, that will make baseball the first pro sports league to sell mobile access to live games on an on-demand, a la carte basis.

The current version of the MLB.com app, which sells for $9.99, gives users the ability to watch a couple of live games each day, but MLB.com selects the games. And those who own both the app and subscribe to baseball’s MLB.TV–an all-you-can eat subscription service–can stream any live game they want to their phones. iPhone and iPod touch users have bought about 250,000 downloads of the app.

Bowman, not surprisingly, says he’d prefer to sell the app-plus-Web subscription together, but says he’s offering the games a la carte as an experiment to gauge demand. The test will run through the rest of the regular season, which ends Oct. 4.

News Corp.’s (NWS) Fox and Time Warner’s (TWX) Turner, the two networks that own the rights to the baseball playoffs and World Series, have a Web blackout for the TV broadcasts of those games. (Bowman says he is working with both networks to offer a compromise to iPhone app users–a “four screen” version with live, stationary feeds of the game–so that, for instance, you may be able to see the dugout, etc. Pricing, if any, still undetermined.)

There is one other restriction to the offer, and it’s the same one that exists with the Web subscription service: You can’t watch games that are broadcast in your home market. That is, I can watch the Minnesota Twins play on an iPhone if I’m in Brooklyn, but not in Minneapolis.


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