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.

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