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Maury beat me to it by getting his review in on iPhone’s opening day. But nonetheless, I’ve downloaded the app, and I have to say I’m fairly impressed. In-game highlights are available literally minutes after the play has happened, and the video quality is outstanding on WiFi (although not quite as good on the 3G network, at least in my experience). As far as the cost, $4.99 is a very reasonable price point, given the value.

The real question to me, though, is whether MLB.com can actually turn the app into a significant amount of revenue. If Apple sells 10-15 million iPhones this year, and 1 in 20 buy the app (certainly a high end estimate), that translates to $2.5-$3.75 million (with Apple skimming another thirty percent off the top). In other words, approximately one year of Jamie Walker.

I will not go on a rant about the value of free digital content. I think I’ve done that enough for the time being (including the post right below this one), and this isn’t quite apples to apples. The app store is a completely new market, and we still don’t really know how it will play out.

Also, it’s important to remember that the price doesn’t make the app harder to download in terms of time, since the fee is automatically charged to your iTunes account. This is very different from shopping online, where you generally have to go through several extra steps in order to pay for something. It’s the same model Apple uses to get people to buy songs for $0.99 when they could just as easily be had for free.

But that still doesn’t explain what sort of value MLB.com is looking for here. The app will probably have more features next spring, and I would be surprised if the price isn’t $9.99. Aside from the video, there is only a generic scoreboard (with line scores), and links to MLB.com’s browser-based box scores. Needless to say, there’s a lot that can be built on top of this, and I’m sure MLB.com is already working on it.

But even then, what is the potential upside? Is it better to charge for the app and bring in $10-$15 million in revenue, or would MLB be better off trying to extend its reach by making the app free? How much could they make with an ad-supported app, a la the New York Times? Could they create an e-commerce portal?

That’s what’s so fun about the app store business at this point: we just don’t know. As time goes on, we can better analyze what works and what doesn’t. Until then, companies will just have to take their best educated guesses.

Feedback? Write a comment, or e-mail the author at shawn(AT)squawkingbaseball.com

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  1. on July 16th at 11:58 am
    Andy said:

    This app totally stinks like hot garbage. It was the first thing that I downloaded and have been extremely disappointed. The videos are pretty cool, and you can even get them over the EDGE network, but there are no box scores or live pitch-by-pitch or other features. It seems odd that the WAP browser MLB website is so much better than the app. Moreover, you will notice on the app store page that you only get the app for $4.99 for the rest of this season, it is likely that you will need to either download another copy of re-subscribe to the app to get it to work next year.
    MLB is a master of online whatnots and whosits, so it is surprising that they released such a junky piece of software. Whatever features are missing, though, it still is pretty slick and represents a lot more than any of the other leagues.