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RealTime IT News

MLB Seeks Playoff Payoff

Looking to cash in on heavy interest in playoff baseball this year, New York-based MLB.com will ease usage rules for paid downloads of full-length games to allow for transfers and burns to CDs or DVDs.

MLB.com, which is owned by Major League Baseball, plans to hawk full-length game downloads for the duration of the 2003 playoffs and World Series at $3.95 per game. As part of a deal with Seattle-based RealNetworks , digital rights management (DRM) technology will be used to allow downloaded games to be stored on up to three computers and burns to CDs and DVDs.

MLB.com spokesman Jim Gallagher told internetnews.com the Digital Download Service was tied exclusively to software from RealNetworks, including the RealOne Player, the RealVideo and Helix DRM technologies.

Available only for broadband users, Gallagher said the games would be available right after the game. Advertisements from the television broadcasts would be stripped out of the digital offering.

MLB.com started testing full-length game downloads in June as part of a premium multimedia experiment. That service -- -- dubbed Digital Classics -- was sold at $3.95 a pop. To counter piracy on peer-to-peer networks, MLB.com added a secret ID tag to every download sold. If a customer uploads the games to one of the free, controversial file-sharing networks, Gallagher said the ID tag would pin that file to the customer and legal steps would be taken against violators.

He said similar DRM features from Real's Helix would be integrated into the playoff and World Series offerings.

Gallagher said live video broadcasts from the site's MLB.TV service would not be available in the U.S. because of TV blackout rules but, internationally, live streams would be available for $2.95 per game or $14.95 for the entire playoffs.

Since MLB.TV launched in March this year, the site has signed up more than 125,000 subscribers. "That's way above our projections. We budgeted for 25,000 subscribers for this season and we've surpassed that by 100,000," Gallagher said. (Subscription figures for MLB.TV via the RealOne SuperPass service were separate and unknown).

MLB.TV employs geography-based IP tracking technology to blackout local games and ensure network television rights are protected.

The MLB.com site also sells play-by-play audio feeds -- Gameday Audio service -- for $19.95 a year. For the 2003 playoffs, Gameday Audio is available for $9.95.