SBJ/April 2-8, 2012/Media

MLBAM Gameday adding Scout, contests

MLB Advanced Media this week will introduce additions to its Gameday live game tracker, including a new element of automated color commentary.

Using the past four seasons of accumulated, detailed game data, the new Scout feature on Gameday will identify statistical trends and tendencies, such as a pitcher’s historic effectiveness when he fails to reach certain pitch speeds, and display them in real time. The Scout element will be introduced this week with the online version of Gameday, with an expansion to mobile platforms planned for later this season.

Gameday’s interactive additions are part of a larger industry trend toward “gamification.”
The feature’s editorial voice remains a work in progress, but the initial thought is for the automated comments to have some edge and point of view.

In addition, Gameday will this season introduce a series of casual games and contests, such as virtual mascot races and baseball-themed versions of three-card monte frequently seen on ballpark scoreboards. Participation and success in those games, usually occurring during inning breaks and pitching changes, will generate rewards and prizes as part of a fan loyalty program being developed in concert with Seattle-based social loyalty firm BigDoor Inc.

The effort is also part of a larger industry trend toward “gamification,” a tech buzzword describing the introduction of gaming elements and gaming mechanics into other facets of digital media and commerce.

“One of the ideas we’re pursuing is to bring a bit more of the ballpark, in-venue experience into Gameday,” said Dinn Mann, MLBAM executive vice president of content. “But you put everything together, and it’s one of the biggest leaps forward we’ve ever had for Gameday.”

The Gameday game tracking is one of the most highly trafficked sections of MLB.com, generating more than 362 million session launches during 2011, up 17 percent from 2010, and a site record of more than 4 million alone on Sept. 28, the frenetic final day of the regular season.

The enhancements also arrive with an expanded advertising platform for Gameday, with sponsors now able to buy ad positions adjacent to announcements of specific plays. Initial sponsors for the 2012 season include EMC, Lowe’s and Pepsi. MLBAM did not provide numbers on how much additional revenue those opportunities might provide.

MLBAM today is also set to introduce the 2012 version of “Beat the Streak,” its popular, 11-year-old fantasy game in which users select an MLB player each day to get a hit, with a goal of beating Joe DiMaggio’s record consecutive hit streak of 56 games. Despite more than 50 million initiated streaks during the life of the game, no one has surpassed DiMaggio and attained a top prize that rose last year to $5.6 million.

The updated version of the game will allow users to select a second player each day, conceivably allowing a person to match DiMaggio in just four weeks. A new Scotts-sponsored mulligan program will also allow fans to restart one streak that ends between five and 10 games. The new “Beat the Streak” is also fully integrated with Facebook Connect, and will be tied directly into the fan loyalty program.

MLBAM also is developing a competitive “Beat the Streak” league involving ad agencies that it works with, not unlike the high-profile, agency-only fantasy football league operated by the NFL each fall.

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