RealTime IT News

MLBAM Goes Beyond Baseball Diamond

Flush with cash from a string of recent big-name deals, New York-based Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) announced plans to expand beyond the diamond and into the lucrative online sports content business.

MLBAM, launched in 2001 to run the online operations of MLB's 30 franchises, has launched a spin-off company called Sports on Earth to hawk technical expertise to non-baseball sports leagues and franchises.

Sports on Earth, a wholly-owned subsidiary, will operate a service that powers original editorial content, audio and video highlights, Web design and technical support and marketing and sales support.

The company is already up and running with a deal to handle the Internet operations for Major League Soccer (MLS). According to MLBAM spokesman Jim Gallagher, the partnership calls for Sports on Earth to roll out an interactive MLSnet.com portal with current news, analysis and information.

Much like MLB.com's heavy emphasis on video content, the soccer portal will feature a "Sights and Sounds" sections with free multimedia highlights from pro soccer games around the country. Sports on Earth will also take over the individual sites for the Chicago Fire, Columbus Crew, Dallas Burn, D.C. United, Kansas City Wizards, Los Angeles Galaxy, MetroStars and San Jose Earthquakes.

The redesigned MLSnet.com network will distribute live and archived audio of nearly every game in both English and Spanish as well as live and archived video of games. It will also offer 3-5 minute video highlight shows and photo galleries of every game.

"This is a natural extension of our current business. We already do the same things on MLB.com so this is an opportunity to grow the business," Gallagher told internetnews.com.

Gallagher said it was likely the MLS portal will take the premium content route that helped push MLB.com to profitability.

"We're operating the site in close conjunction with MLS," he said. "The ultimate goal, as with our baseball site, is to offer soccer to all levels of fans, from the casual to the fanatical."

MLB.com has found a gold mine among fanatical baseball fans who pay annual subscriptions for access to raw data and multimedia content that includes live streams of baseball games. On MLB.com's properties, 95 percent of the content is free and advertising-supported but the revenue from the 5 percent in subscription offerings is significant enough to help push MLBAM to profitability, Gallagher explained.

"The appeal of Sports on Earth is that we have three years of experience under our belt. We have been successful at doing this. We had 650 million visitors to the MLB.com properties last year and we are handling between three and four million visitors a day this year."

In the past, MLBAM has provided live Web casts of several NCAA Division II football playoff games and also provided complete live draft coverage of the MLS two-day draft earlier this year.