Baseball Ramps Up Plan To Charge For Online Content - InformationWeek

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Baseball Ramps Up Plan To Charge For Online Content

Major League Baseball Advanced Media said Wednesday it would charge a subscription fee for an online video-search service that two months earlier it said would be available for free initially. The announcement comes a day after MLB cut a deal with RealNetworks that will bring an end to free Internet radio broadcasts of baseball games.

Beginning on opening day, April 2, streamed video highlights geared toward avid fans and fantasy league participants will be available on mlb.com and individual team sites an hour after each game in two formats: 56K or 300K. The service is made possible by video-serving technology provided by Virage Inc., which will break up video clips pitch by pitch and make them searchable.

When the deal with Virage was revealed in January, Bob Bowman, CEO of MLB Advanced Media, a company jointly owned by the league's 30 franchises, said a subscription fee would be considered once the service caught on. Wednesday, that plan was altered to specify that a pre-packaged set of clips would be free, while the video-search service will cost less than $10 a month.

Virage CEO Paul Lego said the service will be worth the price of a subscription. "Simply put, it's the biggest video product on the Web today," said Lego. "There's no reason Internet content shouldn't be able to command the same types of deals as TV content."

With the moves to sell online audio and video, MLB has taken the lead among sports leagues in charging for Internet content. Through its deal with RealNetworks, radio broadcasts of games, which were free last season, now will cost either $9.95 a year from mlb.com or $4.95 to $9.95 a month for packages from RealNetworks. "The notion that everything put on the Internet should be free is being tested here," said Bowman, who predicts that other leagues will follow suit.

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