RealTime IT News

MLB.com IM Bot Up to Bat

Major League Baseball wants to be your buddy.

MLB.com today launched an instant messaging bot on America Online's AIM network to push content -- and sell add-on services -- to baseball fans.

Users can now add "MLB" to their AIM buddy lists to receive live scores, game schedules and links to player stats during the playoffs. During the off season, the bot will provide updates on player trades, spring training and fantasy league information.

The IM buddy gives MLB.com yet another outlet to market its paid services to a valuable audience that's already using IM for everyday activities at home and work.

MLB.com's current paid content Internet strategy includes the sale of full-length game downloads, live audio broadcasts and live television feeds from its MLB.TV initiative.

The embrace of IM bots as a marketing tool isn't entirely new. In recent years, ActiveBuddy (now Conversagent) scored bot-making deals to launch IM promotions for Capitol Records, The Sporting News and Warner Bros., but the market appeared stalled because access to the AIM network came with a heavy price tag.

In September, AOL kick-started the business again with the launch of a pay-per-use AIM Bot Program offering "a streamlined and efficient process" to design, build, certify and deploy IM bots on the network.

Pricing for network access is session-based with tiers based on usage, making MLB.com one of AOL's biggest client wins for IM bots.

A user session begins when the bot or the end-user starts a chat conversation and ends when the IM window is closed or the conversation is inactive for 15 minutes. A company launching a high-traffic bot pays $0.01 per session or $20,000 a month for unlimited sessions.

MLB.com could potentially use the bot as a test bed for its spin-off company called Sports on Earth subsidiary, which markets technical expertise to non-baseball sports leagues and franchises.