SBD/Issue 94/Sports Media

Thinking Big: Several Sports Properties Excited By New iPad

MLBAM Participates In iPad Announcement,
Shows How Live Games Will Operate On Device
Numerous sports properties and execs are seeing a bright future from the iPad, the mobile tablet device unveiled yesterday by Apple Inc. targeted to go on sale beginning in March. The device, featuring a 9.7-inch touch screen, will run a version of Apple's iPhone operating system and combine mobile application functionality with a color e-reader. Pricing will start at $499 and run to $829 depending on the model. As such, the device is being positioned as a hybrid between a traditional mobile smartphone and a laptop. MLBAM participated in the iPad announcement in S.F., showing how live MLB games will operate on the device. MLBAM's successful MLB.com At Bat mobile application may carry a different name for the iPad. But baseball's digital arm yesterday began marketing MLB.TV subscriptions, the earliest it has done so for an upcoming season. Pricing for MLBAM's flagship video product will be $119.95 for a premium-level version, and $99.95 for a basic-level one, and the single subscription will include portability between wired computers, and mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad, provided a user has also made the one-time purchase of the At-Bat application. "The portability is going to be a big element this year," said MLBAM President & CEO Bob Bowman. "There are a couple of things that have been very clear with Apple -- people love their products and they work very well with our technology. We're delighted with this announcement." Bowman also cheered Apple's support for content owners such as MLBAM and the N.Y. Times, which also was part of the device announcement yesterday. "Their appreciation for publishers and copyright is critical," Bowman said. "Their understanding of rightsholders is a hidden strength of theirs."

THE START OF SOMETHING BIG? Digital media consulting outfit Convergence Sports & Media President Tom Richardson called the iPad a "gamechanging" product. Richardson: "We've seen what's happened with the iPhone and a 3-inch screen. Can you imagine the possibilities with the larger real estate? That said, a lot of functions here could be done before in a various ways, but what Apple's done is packaged it all together with a big-time ease of use and a surprisingly competitive price. Apple has a big time halo effect around it, and again has something I think can be pan-demographic in its appeal." Early criticisms of the device, however, have centered on its lack of a camera of any type, another virtual keyboard that will require an adjustment period to use efficiently, and its use of the much-debated AT&T Wireless network. Some execs also questioned the pricing, as it still is higher than virtually every netbook on the market, and many full-featured laptops that use the Windows 7 operating system. NBA Digital Senior VP & GM Bryan Perez: "It's going to be interesting to see how that price point plays out. It still seems rather expensive" (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).

WE'VE GOT AN APP FOR THAT: ESPN.com’s Ryan Corazza reported Magic C Dwight Howard, Vikings DE Jared Allen and Bills WR Terrell Owens are expected to debut personal iPhone apps that will “closely align with their personal brands.” Bengals QB Jordan Palmer is a Partner in Rock Software and is helping to create the apps, which the company already did for Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco. Howard’s app will be largely based on his "well-known sense of humor by featuring a joke of the day.” Allen’s will be centered around his “love of hunting and his ‘Mullet Militia’ lifestyle," while Owens’ will revolve around his “penchant for fashion and workout routine.” Palmer: “We do not want to make cookie-cutter applications.” Corazza noted as smartphones “continue to become more widespread in the mobile landscape, it’s likely so too will athletes continue to integrate their personality and brand with technology specifically catered to them” (ESPN.com, 1/27).

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