Robert Bowman has gone from PCs to the Padres. Last fall, he left as president and chief executive of electronics e-tailer Outpost.com to head up Major League Baseballs new Internet unit, MLB Advanced Media. Bowmans game plan: to consolidate the leagues 30 individual club sites into a single portal. The division also recently announced a deal with Virage, which will provide MLB.com with software and services to deliver streaming-media game highlights for the 2001 baseball season. Last month, MLB Advanced Media took over the production of MLB.com from SportsLine.com, which had co-produced the site since July 1999. Senior Writer Mindy Charski recently spoke with Bowman.
Whats your vision for MLB.com?
The driving force is to think of it from a fans perspective, to think of ways fans connect with baseball when theyre not at a game — listening to the game, seeing stats, buying merchandise, buying tickets.
Will I still be able to go to Astros.com?
The Astros page will be a subpage of MLB.com. You will stay at that section of the site as long as you want, but if you want to broaden your search, the nice thing is you can navigate through [MLB.com] as you want.
I know the owners of the individual teams have decided to centralize their Internet rights under the Officer of the Commissioner. Will you divvy up the revenues from MLB.com to each of the teams?
No. Whatever success we will have will be decided by the 30 owners. Our job is to enhance the value and brand name of baseball. If we do that right, well create an asset and cash flow, and the owners will decide best how to divvy it up.
Will you become a competitor to SportsLine and other sports sites, like ESPN.com?
SportsLine will still be a partner. Our view [about competitors] is we speak from both sides of our mouth. MLBs perspective is: If the fans want to connect to baseball through the Internet, they should do it the way they feel most comfortable. ESPN and SportsLine are enhancing the value proposition of baseball, so we dont view them as competitors. . . . Hopefully, we will make our site compelling enough that we get the lions share of baseball fans.
I have to ask: When you were at Outpost, one of your ads featured gerbils shot out of a cannon into a wall. Will you be advertising MLB.com by shooting baseball players out of a cannon?
[Laughing] I hadnt thought of that. I dont think its going to happen.
Do you think that ad campaign was successful?
It was and it wasnt. Based on our sales, the ad worked. People remember it today but what made Outpost successful is not the gerbil ad but the focus on the customer, that we could deliver overnight and for free. But the gerbil ad got us on the map.