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As videogames "become a spectator sport, Amazon just bought the world's largest arena" in the industry with its acquisition of Twitch Interactive, a "popular Internet video channel for broadcasting, and watching, people play videogames," according to MacMillan & Bensinger of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The $970M purchase price "underscores the popularity of online gaming." Twitch, founded in '11, is "the fourth-largest source of U.S. Internet traffic," behind only Netflix, Google and Apple. It "owns technology for streaming live video capable of supporting a large number of simultaneous viewers for events like game tournaments and music concerts." Amazon has "been making a push into gaming, including bulking up its staff of programmers at its studios in Seattle and Southern California." Twitch will "operate as an independent subsidiary of Amazon" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/26). USA TODAY's Brett Molina notes the acquisition "adds to Amazon's growing stable of original content." The company "has already started creating original TV programming for its media service Amazon Prime, and Twitch adds one more piece of original video to its lineup." Forrester Research Group VP James McQuivey said, "It's clear that Amazon will want to find more content that it can control" (USA TODAY, 8/26). RECODE.net's Kafka & Johnson cited a source as saying that Google "had been in talks" to acquire Twitch, but "that deal died." One big question whether Amazon will "let Twitch operate as a standalone business as Facebook did with Instagram," or if the company will "try to integrate it into its current video business" (RECODE.net, 8/25).
This week brings my first on-site review of a mobile application, as I took MLB At the Ballpark with me to Citizen's Bank Park on Sunday. I found that At the Ballpark definitely adds to the live game experience, with special offers and conveniences like food delivery and a searchable list of stadium amenities. While most of the app's features are current, repetitive data collection forms hold it back from being entirely intuitive. At the Ballpark is an ad-supported free download, developed by MLBAM. An account with MLB.com is required to access the app's features. This review was conducted on an iPhone 5 version 7.1.2, with AT&T LTE service.
SAFE AT HOME: As I approached Citizen's Bank Park, I opened At the Ballpark and purchased a ticket to the Phillies' home game against the Cardinals -- a process that took less than five minutes from start to finish. This was a bit longer than expected, but not long enough to be a deterrent. At the gate, my mobile ticket was successfully scanned, and I checked into the ballpark via the app's built-in iBeacon technology. This instantly unlocked two special offers -- a free hotdog and soda, and a discount on Phillies merchandise. I quickly located the check-in desk, received my voucher and redeemed my free meal. Not a bad start. Checking into the game also unlocked in-game highlights. There were seven for Sunday’s game that populated in a timely fashion, but not quickly enough to call them instant replays. From my seat, I tested the app’s food delivery feature. Although I had saved my credit card to the app during the ticket-purchasing step, I had to re-enter the information. This was irritating. Once I placed the order, however, two bottles of water and a foam finger were delivered to me in what felt like four minutes. Success. Elsewhere in the app, a map feature displays the locations of all the ballpark's amenities -- from concessions to restrooms to merchandise. Users can search this feature by keyword to find exactly what they want. Typing in popcorn will pull up the stands that sell it. This is definitely a useful tool that prevents "stadium circling syndrome." The app also features a ballpark guide with everything a fan would need to know, including directions, parking and fun facts. Lastly, a journal feature keeps track of a fan’s ballpark visits (via iBeacon check-in), photos, and the fan’s win-loss record while at the parks. Photos can be conveniently shared to social accounts. With the Phillies winning 7-1 on Sunday, I am currently batting 1.000 in At the Ballpark.
CALLED FOR A BALK: After saving credit card information once, I felt that I should not have to enter it again. Similarly, once I had logged into my MLB.com account once, I should have remained logged in throughout my experience. There were three separate user ID and password log-ins required between purchasing tickets, downloading tickets and ordering food. These things should require only one log-in and one form.
BOTTOM LINE: A cheery companion to game-day, MLB delivers many conveniences with At the Ballpark. Most elements of the experience are smooth and intuitive, but streamlining the data collection process is recommended to make the experience more current. There are not enough reviews on iTunes to constitute a rating, but I give At the Ballpark 3.5 stars. There is certainly room for growth, particularly in the ways fans can interact with the app and each other. I would have ventured to other places, or even competed with other fans to unlock additional offers. It would also be nice to see if there is anyone I know at the game based on user check-ins. With the second phase of iBeacon technology beginning to roll out across ballparks, maybe my wishes will be granted.
Amie Sheridan (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer in Philadelphia.
See Sheridan's previous App Review submissions for THE DAILY:
- SI's FanNation For iPhone A Lackluster Experience For Daily Fantasy Games
- PGA Tour For iPhone A Must For Golf Fans, Just Not During A Major
- IndyCar 14 For iPhone A Joy To Drive, But Only For Verizon Users
- Ticketmaster For iPhone Makes Buying Easy, Has Few Shortcomings
- Tour De France For iPhone Offers High Gear, But Could Use A Tune-Up
SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote the longer SEC Network analyst Tim Tebow "stays off the field and the more comfortable he gets in the studio and at game sites, you might start to see him morph more into a full-time broadcaster." SEC Net anchor Joe Tessitore said, "He has told our producers that he wants constant feedback, he wants to be coached, and he wants to be great at TV. He calls and texts me non-stop to discuss every detail of everything we're doing." Tessitore added that Tebow has "taken the lead on many of the SEC Network production calls and meetings and that he cares deeply about his on-air performance." Tebow has a multi-year deal with ESPN, and "along with his work as an analyst for SEC Nation, he’ll be on a variety of ESPN platforms including SportsCenter, ESPN Radio, and the network's Heisman Trophy coverage." Given ESPN’s "fondness for all things Tebow, the network would love to use him in as many arenas as possible" (SI.com, 8/25).
GET WELL SOON: In Phoenix, Paola Boivin noted FS Arizona viewers "were perplexed" when Coyotes and D-Backs host Todd Walsh "didn't appear on the air for nearly a month." But it "turns out Walsh is battling the aftermath of a frightening concussion" following a July car accident (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 8/24).
KNIGHT & DAY: In Orlando, Mike Bianchi noted UCF radio play-by-play announcer Marc Daniels is getting ready to "start his 20th season" on the job. Daniels is "woven into the fabric of his program by shared experiences with fans and players and coaches over months and years and decades." Daniels has been the "eyes and ears of fans at hundreds of games spanning thousands of miles" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 8/24).
NOTES: FS Detroit Tigers and Red Wings reporter Shannon Hogan is joining MSG Network as its Islanders beat reporter, succeeding Peter Ruttgaizer (NEWSDAY, 8/26)....Sources said that Vancouver-based CKST-AM Canucks and B.C. Lions play-by-play announcer Rick Ball "will be leaving" to take "a similar position with Rogers Sportsnet in Calgary, where he'll call Flames TV games in the coming season" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 8/26).