October 20, 2004 9:03 AM PDT

AOL pitches baseball for IM

Staging a sort of a late-inning rally, America Online and Major League Baseball are teaming up in an instant-messaging deal.

AOL and baseball's interactive media and Internet company, MLB Advanced Media, on Wednesday announced an AOL instant-messaging feature that will give baseball fans real-time access to baseball scores, headlines, standings and fantasy game links, as well other baseball information, when they add the screen name "MLB" to their Buddy List.

The announcement comes with just a handful of games left to be played in the championship series and the World Series, which begins later this week.

"We are very pleased to be making the baseball experience more interactive for our fans...Now (they) can quickly access the latest schedules, scores and statistics from their computers, mobile phones and PDAs," George Kliavkoff, senior vice president of business development at MLB Advanced Media, said in a statement.

Once people add "MLB" to their AOL Buddy List, they will be prompted to select items from a list that features alerts and live polls, scores, standings, schedules, headlines, team information, statistics, MLB multimedia and fantasy games.

Fantasy games link to MLB.com, where people can change their player roster on SimLeagues or participate in the baseball trivia "Perfect Game."

Meanwhile, the live polls will be offered during games, allowing people to express their opinions on "Play of the Game" and game MVPs.

Baseball fans can access a free download of AOL Instant Messenger and locate the "MLB" contact at AOL's IM Robots site.

The partnership between Major League Baseball and AOL is part of an earlier agreement between the two organizations. AOL and MLB Advanced Media entered into a two-year, $9 million deal earlier this year to offer live audio streams and 20-minute video clips for each game, sources previously told CNET News.com.

The AOL IM feature does debut before the start of the World Series, but will baseball fans catch IM fever at this late stage of the game?

On Wednesday night, the New York Yankees face off with the Boston Red Sox for the American League Championship title, and the Houston Astros take on the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series.

In related news, Major Baseball League and XM Satellite Radio signed a $650 million, 11-year deal on Wednesday that will let XM broadcast games, beginning in the 2005 season.

CNET News.com's Ben Charny contributed to this report.

 

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