posted on May, 31 2004 @ 04:30 AM
Baseball, America's traditional pastime, is best enjoyed on a summer day with a hot dog and beer in hand. But many fans who can't make it to the
ballpark are watching and listening to games on their PCs. Like an outfielder charging a sinking fly ball, MLB.com, the Internet arm of Major League
Baseball, has been aggressive in the options it offers fans on its website. Analysts say its strategy is a case study for other sports.
The casual fan can retrieve free daily audio and video highlights, as well as scores, statistics and pitch-by-pitch updates on games in progress.
Visitors can also access video of memorable moments, like Arizona's Randy Johnson's recent perfect game against Atlanta, where clips of all 27 outs
are seamlessly fused together. Diehards can sign up for Gameday Audio, which runs 15 bucks for the season. A subscription to MLB.TV includes video of
all games for $15 a month; MLB All Access costs $20 per month and includes both the video and audio.
"They have a textbook product to be sold online. It has incredible universal appeal," said Allan Weiner, research director at Gartner. "It fits the
Internet model of content distribution to a T."
Baseball is a natural fit with the Internet because of the sheer number of games each season, and because of the sport's long history, devoted fans
and rich statistics, analysts said. Games are played every day and no two are alike. The Internet can also be a boon for the faraway baseball fan. For
a Milwaukee Brewers fan living in San Francisco, for example, paying to hear Bob Uecker call the game is an attractive option, especially when local
television and radio stations rarely carry the games.
"Baseball fans cannot get enough baseball," Weiner said. "They could turn it into a year-round sport using the Internet."
Other sports like football and basketball don't have as many games or the rich history that baseball does. While football was the first major sports
website online -- NFL.com will celebrate its 10th year this season -- it cannot offer full videos of games because of lucrative television contracts.