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LWIB: Fight Looming Between MLBAM and Clubs Over In-Stadium Wireless? PDF Print E-mail
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Pete Toms Article Archive
Written by Pete Toms   
Monday, 07 June 2010 00:38

Last Week in Bizball by Pete Toms

This week in “Last Week in BizBall“, will clubs battle BAM for control over in-stadium wireless rights?, plus the weekly tidbits.

FIGHT LOOMING BETWEEN BAM AND CLUBS OVER IN-STADIUM WIRELESS?

Last month the Biz of Baseball reported that MLB Advanced Media had announced the pending introduction of their “check in app”, “At the Ballpark”. BAM will reportedly debut “At the Ballpark” during next month’s All Star Game. LWIB Jason Fry wrote for the National Sports Journalism Center on the great opportunity that in-stadium wireless communication presents to pro sports.

 Then there’s Foursquare, the location-based service that lets users “check in” at places, finding their friends, leaving tips about locations and earning badges. Last fall Foursquare had about 100,000 users: today it has about a million. The service – or something in the same vein — should be an invaluable addition to teams’ marketing arsenals. What fan wouldn’t want to collect team-specific badges for attending games, visiting stadium eateries, or sticking it out through a long extra-inning game, to name just a few ideas? And what team wouldn’t want access to detailed information about potential customers who sign up to be “friends” with the club?

Major League Baseball is reportedly planning its own check-in application, which could be promising if MLB Advanced Media lets individual clubs experiment with badges, promotions and features, instead of handing down a one-size-fits-all template.

Ryan Corazza wrote for ESPN.com on the future of geolocation platforms in professional sports:

And now, Major League Baseball is the first major sports league that is jumping on the geolocator trend.

AND

Well, here are some hypotheticals on how MLB could use geolocation:

• If a user is checked in at a ballpark, the app could offer an incentive at the gift shop -- say, 10 percent off all hats during the sixth inning.

• It could offer food discounts during the game.

• Situational stats could be provided to users on their mobile devices depending on what's happening on the field in real time, exclusive only to those who've checked in.

Jason Fry was not the only pundit arguing that geolocation technology could be best exploited at the club - as opposed to league - level. Dan Shanoff blogged about the future of “At the Ballpark”. “Obviously, this is run at the MLB level, but the real value is when it gets unlocked at a team-by-team level.”

But will none, some or all of the clubs eventually control geolocation in their stadiums? Will geolocation be the next battleground in a continuing series of disputes between (some) clubs and BAM?

Last season a yearlong logjam over control of the rights to “live in-market” streaming of games was broken when BAM reached agreements with both the Yankees and Padres. This season was expected to bring the announcement of several more such deals but to date none have materialized. In March, the Red Sox became the last club in MLB to opt in to the StubHub/BAM secondary ticketing partnership announced in 07.

Such disagreements were inevitable given BAM’s original mandate to centralize and re-distribute revenues since its formation in 2000. More recently BAM has shifted its focus from generating “baseball-related” revenues to providing back end technologies for the likes of MMOD and ESPN3. Will BAM’s shifting priorities make it less likely that they will attempt to continue to control in-stadium wireless or will rights to geolocation lead to another round of disputes between some clubs and BAM?

SELECT READ MORE TO SEE THIS WEEK'S TIDBITS

 THE WEEKLY TIDBITS

  • Don Muret reported for the SportsBusiness Journal that the Cubs have hired Icon Venue Group to manage both renovations to Wrigley Field and a mixed use development adjacent to the ballpark. Mr. Muret notes that Icon president and CEO Tim Romani was a key player in the construction of both the new Comiskey Park and Toyota Park
  • Don Walker reported that the Brewers are now in a legal position to develop some real estate near Miller Park.

Don't expect any construction work to commence around Miller Park any time soon, but at least the Milwaukee Brewers have the legal right to develop some land within sight of the stadium.

Legal restrictions that had been put in place years ago that prevented the Brewers from developing some parcels have expired. A Brewers' spokesman said there are no imminent plans to develop the parcels.

  • Maximizing “non-baseball related revenues” in this era of unprecedented revenue sharing is obviously important but the failures of both the Rangers and Cardinals to launch much discussed developments around their ballparks points to the uncertain outcomes of these projects.

Pete Toms is senior writer for the Business of Sports Network, most notably, The Biz of Baseball. He looks forward to your comments and can be contacted through The Biz of Baseball.

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