In a Q&A at our EconSports conference, Bob Bowman, the head of Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), touted the growth of his mobile business, questioned the reliability of audience-measurement metrics, and promised to beat back the threat from the SlingBox with better technology.
Ads aren't the be-all, end-all: "I think folks are going to start to realize that the ad network is not a bottomless pit, where there's an ad for every form of content. More and more people are going to charge for content. We've chosen that path from day one, and it hasn't been perfect, and I think the environment we are in forces us to look hard at the mix. Ninety-five percent of ours is free and we sell a lot of ads. We don't always want to be ad-supported."
Mobile is growing fast: "Fifteen percent of (our) business is mobile, and the usage is exploding. On any given day, there's 12 to 15 million page views on mobile devices, and the attitude of RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) has been a boon to us. No one has to get there tomorrow. The point is to do it thoughtfully, so we don't have a bubble where it goes up, and then crashes. But it's a mandatory place for us to be for any content publishereven though it's not clear it will be a huge part of the business. The monetary side is good and growing but it's not going to huge."
Users lie about their Web usage while at work: According to Nielsen, MLB.com was down 15 percent in September. "The notion you can hire a panel and get them to be honest about what they do at workit just doesn't happen. I walk into a cube, and four screens change immediately. I don't know anyone who thinks panels work to measure an at-work site, and mlb.com is an at-work site. It is only an issue when it means that you don't get a call [from an advertiser]. But when advertisers call, and they think it's 12 million visitors, you can say it's, in fact, 58 million."
Calling the police on SlingBox users: "We aren't excited about (the fact there are SlingBox users). But having said that, what do you do? Find the fans who buy a SlingBox, and say we want $14 a month? It's impossible. We wish it weren't there, but our way to win this game is to have better technology, and add more to our offering so people want to use it. You win it on technology and the loyalty of fans."
By Tricia Duryee