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.

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