Streaming Video Service Aimed at Baseball Fans

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NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball Advanced Media and multimedia firm Virage Inc. yesterday presented a subscription-based streaming video service that will bring every pitch from every game of the 2001 baseball season directly to the Web.


While the service is scheduled to begin on Sunday, opening day, neither company would confirm the cost to subscribe to the service.


"We haven't decided on a price yet, but there will be one. Streaming video is not free," said Bob Bowman, CEO of MLBAM, New York.


MLB.com spokesman Jim Gallagher didn't seem worried about selling subscriptions to fans.


"I think we will get a significant response," he said.


The video archive service will be promoted through the MLB.com newsletter and through the newsletters of the 30 teams.


E-mails will go directly to tens of thousands of fantasy baseball players, who "are prime candidates to become subscribers," Gallagher said.


The subscription service will be promoted at MLB.com and each of the 30 individual team Web sites.


"People can e-mail clips to friends, so that helps push the viral effect," said Marjorie I. Adams, vice president of business development, MLB.com.


"We will run a pretty modest online campaign," Bowman said, but did not go into detail.


There will be advertisements throughout all 30 ballparks to increase awareness about the new service and to drive traffic to the MLB.com site.


"We will be properly informing fans as they visit the site," he said.


Little marketing will be done offline.


"There will be a full-page ad in the team publications," Bowman said.


As games are being played and filmed, Virage translates the data and prepares it for distribution to a PC. Within an hour of a game's completion, subscribers will be able to view the highlights. All games will be archived in a database, and subscribers will be able to search the archive to pull up video clips of their favorite players. The interface allows subscribers to search by team, player, inning, and type of play.


If every moment is captured, more than 7,500 hours of baseball could be archived by the end of the 2001 season.


The presentation at Mickey Mantle's Restaurant came one day after Major League Baseball announced a three-year, $20 million deal with Internet media company RealNetworks Inc. In that deal, fans can get play-by-play audio-only broadcasts over the Web for $9.95 per year.


Fans in recent years have been enjoying streaming play-by-play for free.


The new features will be available through real.com and mlb.com. Play-by-play and streaming video will now be available only through RealPlayer software.


To increase subscriptions for the audio-only play-by-play, MLB is basically giving the subscription away. Fans who sign up for a year receive $10 gift certificate to its online store.


Both services are being targeted at misplaced fans trying to keep tabs on their teams from across the country.


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