Major League Baseball will introduce a new feature on its iPhone app for the playoffs so users can watch four views of the same game at once. The feature, called "Quad View," is the fourth new wrinkle added this season to MLB.com At Bat 2009, the popular $9.99 app that allows users to listen to every MLB game for free or watch any game for 99-cents a piece.
With Quad View, users "can watch four screens at once" within the iPhone app and then "click on one screen to expand the view," said Bob Bowman, CEO of MLB.com. Bowman announced the new service Wednesday morning at the Apps For Brands conference in New York, co-sponsored by Appolicious.com and Advertising Age. He did not say if MLB.com will charge for the offering.
Quad View is part of MLB.com's ongoing efforts to improve the mobile experience with baseball. He called mobile apps a richer experience for MLB.com and for fans over the Web-based experience on a phone (known as WAP) because "it looks better with live video and you can generate subscription revenue," Bowman said. But the marketplace is considerably smaller than what exists for MLB's WAP product.
About 400,000 people use MLB.com's paid app everyday and 350,000 people use the free version, Bowman said. The free version doesn't include live audio or video of games. "Compare that to our WAP site, which gets about 25 million page views each day. We will get 4 million uniques just today," Bowman said.
"The WAP site is far ahead of the applications and that's why we continue to do both," he said. "Every media player has to do both. There are 81,000 apps right now (including apps from places other than Apple's iTunes store) but there are millions of Web pages" people can access with their mobile devices.
Since launching MLB.com's first iPhone app in 2008, Bowman said MLB.com has learned a lot about the audience.
"Content matters," he said. "It matters how you present your content and it matters what it looks like. There are 6,000 apps that do baseball. We want people to use ours. If it's not good, it's gone."
Monitoring feedback from customers is just as important, he noted. "All feedback is important, but on our application it is really valuable. When we went from offering two games with free video on the iPhone to one, we heard about it immediately," Bowman said. "We went back to two games the next day."
Another key is real-time data. "The notion of a 1-minute delay is too long. You need to see the data on your phone before you see it on TV," he said. That actually happens as there are delays with certain broadcasts over cable and satellite.
Ease of payment is also critical. "I can't stress this enough. The ability to get money from people is really important. The role that iTunes plays" and then other providers, such as a coming app store from Verizon Wireless, "is very important to our success."
As for price, why did MLB.com charge $10 for MLB.com At Bat 2009? "No one really knows yet at what price people will stop buying. It's hit or miss. We think at $10, no one really thinks about spending that. But $20 might have been different," Bowman said. As for charging 99 cents to watch any game on the app, a recently introduced feature, that price was debated within MLB.com and it may change in 2010.
"We wanted to charge as little as we could to get the highest take-up rate" for the games, Bowman said. "That will give us feedback to determine pricing for next year."