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Bowman

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Keeping His Eye on the Digital Ball

Robert A. Bowman, WG’79

It’s virtually impossible to complain about this job,” says Bob Bowman, the president and CEO of Major League Baseball Advanced Media, MLB’s flourishing Internet arm. “Because when people like doctors and lawyers and bankers are complaining about their jobs, and then you mention you work in baseball, there are not a lot of sympathetic ears.”

To anyone familiar with the baseball business, Bowman’s work with MLB Advanced Media leaves little room for complaint. Just 10 years ago, only a few baseball owners had ever heard of the Internet. Today, BAM, as it’s known among baseball fans, oversees MLB’s online business on its portal (mlb.com) and elsewhere, from ticketing and merchandise to Web broadcasts and wireless services. It has exploded from a 2000 startup with $120 million in seed money to a profitable company with $195 million in annual revenues and growing at some 30 to 40 percent a year. Said MLB commissioner Bud Selig, “I don’t think a lot of people understood how important this is going to be.”

While Bowman has leveraged his company’s position in the ticketing and merchandising areas — as well as building such a mammoth broadband pipeline that BAM now hosts sites for top music acts and even the NCAA basketball tournament’s streaming video — Bowman has always clung to the fact that baseball, because it plays 2,430 games a year, had vastly more material to exploit than any other sport. Bowman’s enterprise first tackled radio, began webcasting every game in full this season — in perfectly watchable video clarity — and now is tackling an array of wireless services.

The result could be millions in income to be shared among baseball’s 30 owners. MLBAM could help fill the financial gulf between the game’s opulent New York Yankees and budget Kansas City Royals.

“I don’t know if they’re taking me more seriously or the business,” Bowman quipped about ownership, “but they’re certainly taking this business more seriously.”