MLB readies $5 At Bat iPhone app

One of the new mobile apps that was demoed at last week’s WWDC keynote and will be available upon the launch of Apple’s new App Store is MLB At Bat, from Major League Baseball Advanced Media. The software, which is making its debut appearance on the iPhone platform, allows baseball fans to get live scores, including a line score and current game status information, and watch video highlights just a few minutes after the events occur, while the game’s going on.

“Our goal is to be on any device a baseball fan carries,” MLB Advanced Media VP of Corporate Communications Matthew Gould told me in an interview Wednesday.

According to Gould, the MLB At Bat application will be available as soon as the App Store launches and will cost $4.99 “for the rest of this season.” It’s too early to tell whether the price will change next year, or if users will need to buy a new version of the program for each new season. (Other MLB online services, such as MLB.tv and Gameday Audio, are sold as annual or monthly subscriptions.)

But for the balance of this season right through the World Series, Gould said, $4.99 will get you wireless score access and in-game highlights for every game on the MLB schedule. (A similar highlight feature has been available since the start of the season as a part of MLB’s Team Alerts product, which costs $3.99 per month.)

Although MLB.tv, the company’s live-video product, uses Microsoft’s Silverlight technology, Gould said that MLB Advanced Media is flexible enough to provide video in whatever format is necessary to reach fans on their wireless devices. In the case of the iPhone, that means a “reference movie” containing pointers to different iPhone-compatible video files with different data rates, so that Wi-Fi users can see very high quality highlights while those on EDGE networks will get a lower-quality video that still plays back smoothly.

The application was developed by the wireless group within MLB Advanced Media. Among the members of that team are Jeremy Schoenherr and Rob Spychala, the two MLB employees who demonstrated MLB At Bat on stage during the June 9 keynote.

MLB At Bat displays live scores and in-game video highlights.

Developing an iPhone app was a natural for MLB Advanced Media, which has an offices full of Macs that employees use to edit video highlights for the Web and mobile devices.

Gould said that MLB Advanced Media can tell that baseball fans definitely take advantage of mobile devices to follow the game. He said that on one day during a recent weekend, MLB served 12 million WAP pages to wireless devices. During the week, fans tend to access MLB web services via the Web from work computers.

MLB Advanced Media hasn’t made any statements about the possibility of bringing MLB.com Gameday, which provides more detailed in-game information including statistics, to the iPhone. The company currently offers a Gameday product for other phones for $6-7 per month, or $5-9 per month with live game audio.

“We absolutely would look into” bringing Gameday to more wireless devices including the iPhone, Gould said. So perhaps at some point in the future iPhone-toting baseball fans will even have more reasons to cheer.

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