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MLB At Bat app hits big with fans, reaches 5M downloads

Major League Baseball?s official mobile application, MLB At Bat, reached 5 million downloads before the season?s first pitch was thrown, a record for the eight-year-old platform and pointing to mobile?s ability to enhance the consumption of sports events.

The mark, coming before the start of the season-opening game Sunday between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, followed the setting of a spring training record for daily use of the app, 30 percent higher than the previous mark last year. The downloads record suggests that MLB is on the right track in connecting with younger audiences via mobile given the generally higher age of the average baseball fan compared with other sports. 

?The key for MLB's At Bat strategy is the portability and access to content,? said Tom Edwards, vice president of strategy and innovation for digital with The Marketing Arm, Dallas. ?By providing a personalized approach to content consumption as well as live look-in's, the MLB app provides flexibility regardless of market. 

?This is especially appealing to younger fans who may want instant access to content,? he said.

App stores
Since its February launch, At Bat has remained atop the app store rankings for both iPhone and iPad, including those in United States, Canada and Mexico, MLB said.
 
Bringing mobile to the ball park.

MLB.TV premium subscribers receive a free upgrade to At Bat?s premium features. Fans also may subscribe to MLB.com At Bat and have access to its premium features on the Apple App Store or Google Play for a yearly subscription of $19.99, covering more than 2,500 live MLB games in 2015 from Opening Day to the World Series. 

Subscribers also may pay $2.99/month with the recurring billing offering.
 
At Bat also gives users multi-platform live audio access and Spanish-language audio feeds to desktop and laptop computers. Subscribers also get full premium feature access across iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, supported Android smartphones and tablets and Amazon Kindle Fire and Fire Phone.

Staying on top of the public?s embrace of mobile, At Bat also has added Apple Watch as a feature, making it possible for watch users to enjoy the offerings of vital scores, statistics and content to enhance engagement with the sport.

Starting April 24, Apple Watch users of the MLB.com At Bat app will be able to receive live scores, statistics, pitch tracking, player cards, notifications and news. 
 
The moves reflect how baseball, criticized as being too slow and too long, has dived into mobile to win new, younger fans as well as older ones lost to sports such as football and basketball.

Last year's All-Star Game at Target Field in Minnesota saw the introduction of interactive ballpark attractions using iBeacon technology. 

Fans attending the game and related events could use the At the Ballpark app on their iPhone to receive features at locations such as the Twins Digital Clubhouse, Herb Carneal Pressbox, the Kirby Puckett Atrium and the Rod Carew Atrium. 

IBeacon technology
This year, more ballparks will use iBeacon technology for automatic check-ins to every home game, featuring personalized offers and rewards. Additional ballparks will be outfitted to support interactive ballpark attraction experiences through iBeacon and will be announced as they become available.

Balancing portability and personalization.

?The MLB approach to accessibility and cross-device support is key to early success,? Mr. Edwards said. ?Success will be sustained throughout the season as MLB has struck the ideal balance between portability and personalization.?

Final Take 
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York