Whoooosh! Baseball Goes High-Tech
Baseball is an old game. On the professional level, it's the oldest major sport in America. But in 2013, Major League Baseball dominates new media and technology — from the league and team levels.
For starters, look at MLB Advanced Media — pro baseball's Internet information provider. Forbes recently assessed its value at $6 billion. Most of that involves MLB.tv and the mobile app MLB@Bat, which happens to be the most profitable sports app in the world.
"You're always on the go,between church and school and synagogue or work," said MLBAM CEO Bob Bowman. "Wherever you may be, you open up your mobile device — phone or tablet — you get up to date information."
"We're here for you on every device imaginable, and baseball is perfectly suited for that," added Bowman.
MLBAM edits and publishes up to 25,000 video clips a day during the season, and depending on the level of subscription, a user can watch any out-of-market game and even do things like get real-time updates and highlights on everyone he or she has on a fantasy baseball team. (Read More: Yankees' A-Rod Make More than Entire Team)
"If you fight technology, you fight a boulder coming downhill," Bowman said. "It's real and guess what, it works and people like it."
Like it? They seem to love it.
According to the league, the mobile app was accessed six million times on Opening Day — more than double the previous record for the product. More than 3 million users utilized live streams, and that was 20-percent higher than last year.
MLBAM makes sure fans can follow the team and players they love, no matter where they are in the world.
But what about those who go to the games? The Washington Nationals may well be the most talented team in baseball. And they might also be the most technologically progressive — especially at Nationals Park.
They are the first Major League team to use radio frequency identification (RFID) on a card they are billing the "Ultimate Ballpark Access." (Read more: Next to Try and Sell Soccer in America: Lionel Messi)
"It's all about the fan experience," said Andrew Feffer, COO of the Nationals. "How do we take a ticket, which we describe as an old shorthand form of access as a single point of entry into a venue, and how do we change that for the fan to make it something more valuable to reinvent the idea of a ticket and revolutionize the ticketing business into something that it hasn't been before."
Each season ticket is assigned a card, and here's what it does.
First, you can basically just walk right into the park without waving a ticket or going through a turnstile.
You can manage all your tickets and even transfer them. In fact, the Nationals say, hundreds of thousands of seats have already been transferred electronically, and 95 percent of season ticket holders have signed in to the service.
It's not just about ballpark access and transferring tickets. Season ticket holders can get automatic discounts in the ballpark and even seat upgrades.
The piece de resistance? A loyalty program. Season ticket holders accrue points for purchases and earn points toward more offers and freebies, ranging from food to parking.
The Nationals expect to soon make it full-service car by allowing cashless transactions for concessions. Your account will basically replenish itself like an EZPass.
The technology comes from a company called Fortress, which is based in the United Kingdom. It is used in Premier League soccer, but in the U.S., it's only been partially used in the NFL, NHL and MLS.
Teams are definitely watching what happens, but some are not waiting for results. The Boston Red Sox are launching a similar pilot program that could expand next season. (Read More: Watch Out Yankees and Red Sox, It's a New Era in Baseball)
"We've had calls from various teams in the NFL, NBA and NHL — all looking to see how we're doing with this program and what it means," Feffer said.
The expectation is that it will increase revenue along with fan loyalty while also giving management insight into consumer habits -- they will be able to track what people buy and at what part of the ballpark.
The Nationals say, no one has put all of these elements onto one card.
"What you're seeing is really the future of ticketing happening right here in Washington, D.C.," Feffer said.
—By CNBC's Brian Shactman; Follow him on Twitter: @bshactman