Major League Baseball Wants to Build a New Streaming Sports Service

Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), the technology arm of the national pastime that provides teams with streaming of games, is sounding out potential strategic and financial partners about spinning off its non-baseball content into a separate service, according to MLBAM CEO Bob Bowman.

The aim would be to create a sports streaming service that would enter the market for providing over-the-top sports to subscribers, making it a potential competitor to Disney's ( DIS)  ESPN.

MLBAM, which is owned by major league's team owners, generates $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion in annual revenue, Bowman said at the ReCode media conference in Dana Point, Calif. It provides streaming services both to Major League baseball teams and to other sporting events, including the Professional Golfers Association and CBS's streaming telecast of the March Madness college basketball championship.

Bowman said MLBAM wants to raise funds or create partnerships to help it separately operate the outside streaming business as an over-the-top venture capable of bidding for popular sports events.

"It a different risk profile than our business with the owners," said Bowman in his presentation. "We want to be bigger, bidding for rights. There's a role for an over-the-top program service and we think we can compete."

ESPN president John Skipper said at the ReCode conference on Wednesday night that his company is talking to several streaming services about adding its channel, as it has done with satellite operator Dish's ( DISH) low-cost Sling TV online service. ESPN has so far resisted efforts to create its own stand alone over-the-top service.

"A number of people have expressed interest and we're in discussions with a large number of people," Skipper said. "I think other people will enter into some markets with lighter packages in the calendar year."

MLBAM's Bowman did not offer many details on how much he is trying to raise, but said he has gotten a generally strong reception from both strategic and financial partners that he wouldn't name. He said the non-baseball streaming business generates roughly 30 percent of MLBAM's overall revenue.

MLBAM is not likely to bid on the package of Thursday night football games currently being offered by the National Football League, Bowman said, largely because the technology doesn't exist to offer what he said were 10 million concurrent video streams at one time without degrading the viewer experience.

For the same reason, he also questioned whether Apple (AAPL) , Google (GOOG) or other tech companies would bid for an entire season of those games, as some reports have suggested.

Bowman did not deny reports that MLBAM provided the streaming technology in the past for Super Bowl viewing, which he said amounts to about 2 million concurrent streams.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held a position in Disney and Apple.

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