RealTime IT News

Baseball Fans Have an Online Six Pack

Major League Baseball (MLB) plans to debut a new interactive broadband TV service this week that allows viewers to watch six live games simultaneously on one screen with selectable audio and statistics, as well as the ability to click to any one game on a full screen.

MLB.TV Mosaic, which was developed by MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) and Ensequence, will be available for free to the 800,000 MLB.TV subscribers.

Ensequence, an interactive TV software authoring developer, claims putting six live games on one screen has never been done before and is the future of IPTV .

"We take video-centric content and make it interactive," Aslam Khader, a spokesman for Ensequence, said. "MLB's broadband platform is the first to deploy the application. It's like Macromedia Flash for interactive TV."

The Portland, Ore.-based Ensequence's technology allows MLB to migrate its broadband content to multiple delivery platforms. The application supports Windows Media video content for Windows XP with MPEG-4 support. Khader said support for Macintosh OS X is coming soon.

For baseball, Kahder said the application integrates the desktop with streaming media and interacts with the Internet for statistics.

"The video will take up about three-quarters of the screen with an L-wrap for the statistics," he said. "The viewer can click for live box scores and individual tracking of players."

"With this application, we're taking everything we've perfected about interactive TV over the past six years to broadband TV," Ensequence president and CEO Dalen Harrison said in a statement.

Khader said Ensequence is currently in "discussions" with other undisclosed sports leagues. The company also recently announced deals for its interactive software to be used on the platforms of the TV Guide channel and Cox Communications' cable systems.

Other broadcasters using Ensequence's tools and software suits to broadcast their interactive TV shows and commercials include the BBC, MTV Networks UK & Ireland, the Disney Channel, BSkyB, Sky Sports and DISH Network.

"All of this is an indication of things to come," Khader said. "Viewers want to watch when, where and how they want, time-shifted and running over other devices. Viewers want more and more of that."

For MLB, Ensequence's software not only allows for broadcasting multiple games to a single screen but also alerts fantasy baseball fans when live games involving their players are available.

When live games are not available, MLB.TV Mosaic will provide on-demand games, highlights from the previous day's games and interactive long-form advertisements.

Simultaneously, broadcasting games over the Internet is only the latest step by MLB to become a major league player in IPTV.

In 2000, the baseball owners each contributed $1 million to form MLBAM. From that beginning, the company brought in $265 million in revenue last year and is considering an IPO.

In addition to broadcasting live games over the Internet and through its audio service, MLBAM operates MLB's official Web site and the 30 individual team sites. The sites receive more than 4 million visitors daily.