March 14, 2005 9:05 AM PST

Deals bring hardball to handsets

Play small! Small screen, that is.

A pair of deals announced Monday are designed to help push Major League Baseball content to consumers via their wireless devices.

At the CTIA Wireless conference, taking place this week in New Orleans, the league's MLB Advanced Media group announced that it has extended its partnership with MobiTV, signing a three-year exclusive licensing deal with the multimedia specialist, which will continue to provide audio broadcasts of all the league's games.

The partners said they hope to offer their Mobi-MLB Gameday Audio service to most major U.S. wireless networks before the league's opening-day proceedings on April 3. The companies first launched the audio service last year.

And, in what would be a major addition to the service, MLB and MobiTV said they plan to begin offering mobile video coverage of games. The companies did not immediately offer additional details regarding their plans to launch the video service.

Still, the baseball league did say that similar to its cable and satellite television broadcasting policies, wireless video transmissions would be subject to so-called blackout restrictions in order to preserve the exclusivity of its existing TV programming deals. MLB said in a statement that MobiTV's ability to effectively manage the blackout scenarios was one of the company's primary selling points.

"This continuation and extension of last year's partnership with MobiTV allows us to further our goal of making baseball available to all Major League Baseball fans, wherever they may be," George Kliavkoff, senior vice president of business development for MLB Advanced Media, said in a statement. "The service allows fans the ultimate access to the audio streams of every game, wherever they go within their service coverage area."

The league said the services will go on sale Tuesday via its Web site, as well as MobiTV's site. Pricing information for the services was not immediately made available.

A representative for the league said that additional mobile and Web broadcasting agreements could be announced over the next several weeks.

MLB has been active in expanding its new media reach over the last six months, announcing a $650 million satellite radio pact with XM Satellite Holdings on the eve of the World Series last October. MLB also signed a pact with America Online to serve news, scores and statistics over the company's instant-messaging network.

Last month, the Internet unit of MLB reached an agreement to buy online ticket seller Tickets.com for roughly $66 million.

In other wireless hardball news, sporting news portal CBS SportsLine.com said Monday that it is launching three new mobile baseball applications in partnership with Mforma. The SportsLine mobile services include a video game dubbed "Baseball 2005," a statistical companion for members of the site's online fantasy baseball leagues, and GameCenter, a hardball news and information resource.

All three offerings, for which pricing plans have yet to be announced, are expected to go live in time for MLB's opening day.

 

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