MLB considering investment options for developing MLBAM unit

Major League Baseball is considering spinning off part of MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM), its interactive media and internet company, so it can focus on new clients and attract investment.

The Wall Street Journal newspaper said MLB is hoping to capitalise on the MLBAM’s growing status as a go-to provider for companies looking to stream video over the internet.

MLBAM has aided the launch of the WWE wrestling organisation’s WWE Network and an app from sports broadcaster ESPN, while it is also helping to deliver online pay-television services for HBO and Sony.

MLBAM said it is in talks with some 40 potential clients, including many traditional television networks, up from about six last autumn. The Journal said under the primary scenario being considered by MLB, MLBAM’s technology unit that serves streaming-video clients would be hived off, while baseball-specific properties like MLB.com and the online ticketing division would remain under the league’s remit.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said talks about a new structure have intensified in the past six months as a result of interest from “a number of very significant companies” in US media. He added that MLBAM’s technology unit “has the capacity to become a real leader in the technology space generally—not just in the video streaming business.”

Media companies including Time Warner and Sony are said to have held talks with the league about becoming strategic investors. Manfred said MLB is focused on seeking minority investors with the league maintaining control of MLBAM’s technology unit.

The Journal added that as a whole, including baseball-specific operations like MLB.com and ticketing, MLBAM generated $800m (€703.6m) last year and contributed about nine per cent of the league’s $9bn in revenue.