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MLB’s big bet on mobile apps pays off on Opening Day

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My definition of a great Opening Day: When your team’s pitcher hits a home run and throws a complete game shutout against your archrival. Major League Baseball executives are celebrating a different Opening Day milestone: the skyrocketing popularity of the league’s official mobile app, At Bat. On Tuesday, MLB announced that the At Bat app, which is available for iOS,(s AAPL) Android(s GOOG) and BlackBerry,(s BBRY) was accessed 6 million times on Monday, the first day of baseball’s 2013 season. That’s double the amount of use the app saw on Opening Day 2012.

The league has offered mobile apps for several years and has continued to attract new app users each season by experimenting with pricing structures, adding new features and most importantly, giving fans ways to access its live and archived content on a phone or tablet. The audience has historically been made up of mostly iOS users, who account for 70 percent of the free At Bat app downloads and 85 percent of the paid app downloads. But MLB’s Advanced Media office, which develops those apps, says Android use has been growing recently.

Baseball’s mobile app audience is interesting because it’s not like the TV watching audience — MLB apps are not just used by fans who aren’t at a game. MLB has deftly built its online and mobile viewing audience by understanding that and embracing the ubiquity of mobile devices. MLB Advanced Media CEO Bob Bowman — who will be speaking at paidContent Live 2013 this month in New York City — told me recently that for younger fans, the smartphone “is the first screen, not second screen” and that any app the league makes “has to have everything” if they want to engage and keep those fans around for years.

Today MLB apps can be used as a mobile baseball ticket, and to check in, get coupons for merchandise, order food and even upgrade your seat during the game with MLB mobile apps — and, of course, to watch or listen to games when you’re not near a TV.

8 Responses to “MLB’s big bet on mobile apps pays off on Opening Day”

  1. Chriscom

    I’m late to this thread, but wanted to say how disappointed I am that there’s now Windows Phone version of the app (which was fairly lame last year but adequate and, I had hoped, inferior compared to what would be coming). In addition to all things Apple, At Bat 13 is available for generic Android, for the Android-driven Amazon Kindle, and for the Blackberry Z10. I get it from a marketing standpoint–Windows Phone hasn’t exactly taken the world by storm–but if MLB/Blackberry could cook up something for the doomed Z10, seems like Windows Phone would not have been a stretch. (I follow games on third-party apps).

    • Reid Anderson

      Chriscom, What 3rd party apps are available please? I too was a MLB At Bat 12 WP user and although the audio could have been better, it was better than carrying my little am radio around to get the Blue Jays when my local station decided to carry them.


  2. Jeffrey Wyckoff

    The price for At Bat increased by $5 this season, but I haven’t experienced a $5 increase in value. In fact, this app has never been worth the money. Here’s why I pay for it:
    1 – While the “Baseball Everywhere” tagline is enticing, it also is completely false. As you can see from previous comments, the blackout restrictions are onerous to say the least. If you follow a team that’s greater than 5 hours or 500 miles away from you, then At Bat is perfect. But if you care to follow your hometown team (like I, living in Cincinnati, like to follow the Reds), this is a complete scam. The advertising is dishonest, blatantly misleading, and extremely effective in duping fans into wasting their money for blacked out broadcasts.
    2 – It is the only option. By maintaining their stranglehold on content rights, MLB Advanced Media maintains monopolistic control over the digital fan experience, and they don’t want anyone to forget it! They religiously, repeatedly tout that At Bat is the “Best-selling sports app” – I would hope so! It is not that difficult to be the best when it is the only app. People might think it is a good app, but that may be because MLBAM has very effectively stifled any competition in the space – fans are none the wiser.
    3 – Because I’m a baseball fan, and I buy stuff related to baseball. At Bat, despite its terrible experience, is still a baseball app, and I love baseball. I freely admit that I can’t find this content elsewhere, and it is nice to have the editorial, scores, stats and highlights all in one place.

    So I’m an angry customer, but a customer nonetheless. While I don’t believe MLB Advanced Media’s At Bat deserves the title of “Best Sports App”, I’m definitely evidence of their incredible ability to manipulate fans for more money season after season. Kudos MLBAM.

  3. Lets go blue jays

    Still not clear on why the greedy MLB blacks out games.. seriously? I can just go online and listen on another channel.
    ALSO.. why the #@#@ cant individual teams have their own apps like NHL teams do?
    the Leafs have an app
    Blue Jays dont…
    and they are owned by the same company….

  4. Dave Bessmer

    You should look at the Google Play store comments for the app – the new app is a disaster. The location services isn’t working yet so some games that were supposed to be available for subscribers were blacked out while other games that should have been blacked out were being streamed. It’s a mess right now.

    • Chris van Loben Sels

      Thanks for the additional detail, Dave. Already knew that yesterday was a disaster. Hopefully Giants will even it up today.

      Seriously, it’s a shame I can watch everything on the internet for a reasonable price, except baseball with all of the blackout rules, etc.


    • This happens every year. Something always goes wrong. Then it gets worked out. I have to say even with a weak wifi, the game i watched was pretty clear. Too bad my blackout area was NOT screwed up. I still cannot watch Reds, Nats, Oriole or Brave games. I am 5 hours from the closest. I can see being blacked out of one or 2. Oh well.