MLB.com At Bat ready to play ball for 2013

Major League Baseball is getting its mobile app into shape for the coming season, and video looks to hold down a key spot in the lineup.

Video highlights have a more prominent place in the 2013 edition of MLB.com At Bat.

Video features are nothing new to MLB.com At Bat, of course. The five-year-old app has featured video highlights in previous seasons, and MLB.TV Premium subscribers will once again be able to watch live video streams of games on their smartphones and tablets. But Major League Baseball has redesigned its mobile offering for the 2013 season to better feature video clips and highlights.

“You’re going to see video integration that’s much more intuitive to the way fans use the app,” MLB.com vice president of corporate communications Matthew Gould told me as we talked about Thursday’s update to MLB.com At Bat.

Previously, video clips were kept in a separate section of the app. Now, if they’re relevant to a particular article, they’ll appear within the article itself. MLB developers also redesigned team pages to better integrate video. It should be easier to search for videos, too; instead of getting just the most recent additions, searches will turn up results from the app’s entire video archive.

News articles on MLB.com At Bat now feature inline video as well.

“You search for Cal Ripken or Tony Gwynn, and you’re going to the entire [video] experience,” Gould said.

In a particularly cool feature for fans of baseball history, MLB has been adding classic games to its video archive. These are complete games—not just highlights—and they cover a long stretch of the game’s history; Gould estimates that the oldest entry in the classic games video library is a World Series game from the 1950s. MLB plans to add more classic games to the app’s library as the season progresses.

Last year’s update saw MLB introduce a single app instead of paid and free versions for both smartphones and tablets. That’s continuing in 2013: MLB.com At Bat remains a free download that offers scores and news. For pitch-by-pitch updates, in-game video highlights, pitch tracking, and live audio broadcasts of each game through the World Series, you’ll need to make a $20 in-app purchase. (That’s a $5 increase from last year’s in-app purchase cost.) Monthly subscriptions are available for $3 each month. MLB.TV Premium subscribers get all the premium At Bat features for free as part of their $130 season-long subscription to MLB’s video service.

MLB has made a few changes that will appeal to multiple device owners, however. At Bat subscribers will be able to enjoy multiplatform access to live game audio—basically, you’ll have the option of listening to broadcasts on either your mobile or your Mac or PC. MLB also added universal access for At Bat subscribers, meaning you’ll only need to make one in-app purchase to enjoy features on all the devices you own. That’s great news for baseball fans who may own an Android phone as well as an iPad.

The latest version of MLB.com At Bat is available for both iOS and Android. MLB promises a BlackBerry 10 version will be available by the start of the regular season on March 31. There’s no word on a version for Windows 8 phones at this time.

A few other additions and enhancements may catch the eye of At Bat users. MLB added new push notifications for the iPhone, including more notifications for users of the free version of the app; Premium push features will include notifications of video highlights and condensed game reports. Last year, At Bat added sortable stats to its phone versions; that sortability is now available to iPad and Android tablets as well.

Tablet owners will be able to sort hitting, pitching, and fielding stats in MLB.com At Bat 13.

And the game isn’t over for MLB.com At Bat. Gould says there will be more additions as the season gets underway next month.

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