MLB Advanced Media’s Bowman Keeps Focus on Fan
Bob Bowman, president and CEO of MLB Advanced Media, discussed the future of multiplatform viewing during the B&C Sports Business Technology Summit and how arguably the most successful online subscription service in sports delivers content to more than 3,500 devices across a wide variety of operating systems, platforms, and distribution methods.
“It’s a good business and people will pay for it,” he said of an MLB entity that now has more than three million subscribers. “We’re a la carte and that isn’t easy but customers show up and they will pay for content and ease of use.”
Also, don’t short change the free app.
“It has to be good, but there is a fine line between making the free app good [and too good]. If it is [too good] then why upgrade to the pay app?” he said. “We’ve learned what works in terms of advertising and promotion and a lot of people under 25 are not going to buy it.”
Bowman also offered up suggestions for how anyone can improve the ease of use of their online offering. The first step? Only offer two subscription choices.
“Three choices is confusing and 85% of fans choose the more expensive product that has both the home and away feeds,” he added.
Also important is being respectful of the user’s time.
“Don’t force them to click to double the number of page [hits],” he said. “If fans give us 30 seconds or three minutes of their time we want to make the experience as good as it can be.”
And when it comes to mobile devices, think small: not only the screen size, but also the amount of time the user will be engaged.
Bowman joked that he likes to think that MLB.com has helped improved the nation’s GDP as workers take baseball breaks at their desks instead of taking 10 minutes to go outside and smoke a cigarette or get something to eat.
Bowman also weighed in on the vastly different philosophies between the NFL and MLB when it comes to mobile content. While MLB.com is available on 3,500 devices, the NFL video content is only available through Verizon. The advantage of exclusive deals is money and also having more money available for content creation.
“Our view is if 30% carry Verizon phones that means 70% don’t use Verizon and we want to talk to those customers,” he said. “We want to be on every handset and operating system because that makes it easier for the fans. We need to be respectful of the choices they made as [mobile devices] are often different strokes for different folks.”
In the end, success in a TV Everywhere world hinges not so much on the technology as the content. And with thousands of MLB games a year, baseball fans know they will not be able to sit in front of the TV for every game. So mobile content is key to the hardball junkie.
“You can have the best content in the world, but if the content is not very good, it won’t work,” he added. “And great content without being easy to access also won’t work.”