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RealNetworks, MLB.com Put Games on Cellphones

"It is high...it is far... it is ... now available on your cell phone."

John Sterling's famous home-run call for the New York Yankees is being shuttled to mobile phones nationwide as part of a deal announced Friday by Seattle-based RealNetworks and Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM).

The latest deal is targeted towards hardcore baseball fans willing to shell out about $20 a month for SMS alerts and play-by-play audio of Major League Baseball games.

The launch of the Gameday Audio Mobile service by MLB.com extends on a previous deal with RealNetworks to run its pay-per-listen webcast operations.

Financial terms of the deal, believed to be a revenue-sharing transaction, were not released.

The technologically-hip MLBAM, which is owned an financed by the 30 baseball franchises, is looking to appeal to hardcore baseball fans on the move and AT&T Wireless has already signed up to carry the games live to its subscribers.

If it takes off, the service could add a new revenue stream to the coffers of MLB.com and RealNetworks, two companies that have taken the lead to promote the concept of premium Web-based services to an Internet audience accustomed to freeloading.

Whether fans are willing to shell out $20 per month for access to live broadcasts that would certainly eat into monthly per-minute cell phone payment plans is anyone's guess but the companies have gone into full hype mode to promote the services ahead of the October playoff and World Series games.

"Connected fans will get the local audio feed for their hometown heroes no matter where they are through their mobile phone or mobile PDA, even getting an SMS-text reminder when the broadcast is starting," RealNetworks said Friday.

"Users can then simply dial "#MLB" or hit "Enter" on a browser-enabled mobile device to get to the live MLB.com audio feed. If they need to see how their cross-town rivals are doing, they can either use a voice-recognition command, such as "Change Game ... Seattle Mariners," or simply get mid-game updates via SMS messages," it added.

The voice-recognition technology in the service is being powered by Mountain View, Calif.-based TellMe Networks. The company said baseball fans could personalize the service to send text messages with scores, game delay alerts and other information to SMS-enabled cell phones.

RealNetworks is running the service through its 2G extension to the RealNetworks Mobile Suite, which delivers live and on-demand news, sports, business, entertainment, and special interest audio to existing 2G, new 2.5G and future 3G mobile devices.

One possible downside to the service is the actual quality of the broadcast, which will originate via MLBAM/Reals Internet-based audio service. And, with fluctuating wireless signal strengths, it could prove to be an impediment to listening to hours of a baseball game on a cellphone.