Height: 5’10” Weight: 160
MLB debut: November 2000
Quote: “Baseball goes with the Internet like mustard on a hot dog.”
Quick splits: MLB.com has grown to 1.5 billion visitors annually since its launch in 2000. That’s 11 billion page views and $265 million in revenues.
Highlights: MLB.com delivers live audio or video (available in English, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean) of games to your PC, TV, phone, or other wireless device. Plus: searchable, downloadable video clips; a stats section meaty enough for the biggest fantasy geek; and game-day electronic ticket sales delivered via cell phone.
All this is great news for fans, of course, but it’s even better for the 30 team owners, who together spent $75 million to start the site. Few understood then what MLB.com represented: the potential to shake up baseball’s plutocracy. “What if digital rights could do the same thing for baseball that Pete Rozelle did for football?” asks Bowman. He was referring to the former NFL president’s success in getting teams to split national TV contracts equally, leading to relative parity on the field and a windfall for all.
And that could work for baseball, too. But first, fans would have to decide that television is not always the ideal way to watch a baseball game. For now, TV rights still dwarf what MLB.com brings in. But the broader, long-term challenges to the network TV model–and Bowman’s unceasing flow of ideas–mean that the site could be an inside-the-park home run. “The more you look into this,” says David Glass, owner of the Kansas City Royals, “the more excited you get.”