Major League Baseball has perpetually been at the forefront of the online audio and video revolution. While not the first entity to satisfy a large user base in the streaming and “pre-podcast” world (think Broadcast.com in the mid-late 1990s), MLB.com, through its digital arm, MLB Advanced Media, has consistently delivered premium content in unique ways to legions of baseball fans around the world.
MLB.com naturally has grown alongside the Internet. Back in 2000, one could listen to free online play-by-play, but often the quality and experience was only barely passable (due to network congestion and general lack of widespread broadband among listeners). A year later, for the 2001 season, the site began charging a $9.95 fee to listen to a season’s worth of games, but this subscription plan was met with some consternation (after all, who wants to pay for something that you’ve formerly gotten for free), leading to lackluster subscriber totals. To further the point, our Edison/Arbitron Internet & Multimedia 2001 study found that only 11% of those with Internet access at that time said they were “very” or “somewhat” interested in paying this fee to listen to games online. The following year (2002) saw MLB.com jump into live video, as it became the first major sports league to make all live games available in their entirety online. Since then, the listening and viewing experience and quality have gotten much better, and condensed games, archival footage, select classic games and myriad user enhancements have been made available (some of which were essentially podcasts before “podcasting” had a name.)
Today, MLB.com has continued to innovate by making content available on the iPhone and other mobile platforms. Live game audio has been available by subscription on these devices since last summer, and as of just a few weeks ago, live video streams of all out-of-market games are now available as well. All of this baseball available out-of-market and on-the-go would have been enough to make my 12 year old head explode in 1985. Each morning (and all throughout the day), I studied the box scores for hours on end, and–since I lived in San Diego–I was only able to see my idol Don Mattingly a handful of times per year on TV when the Yankees played the then California Angels. But as a 12 year-old with only a $5 per week allowance, I’d have had to save up until at least 1986 to buy an iPhone and the MLB.com package to see Don Mattingly play on a daily basis.
Which brings me back to the title of this post. What current gadget would your inner 12 year-old have given your right (pitching) arm for?