MLB CEO Calls Foul on Android Users

April 6, 2011 - Written By Maddi Hausmann Sojourner’s Bob Bowman Has to Play with Android, Wishes They’d Rain Out

Last week was Opening Day for Major League Baseball.  While the players took their turns at bat, Bob Bowman, the CEO of, Major League Baseball’s digital content arm, took a few swings at us Android users.

Digital content has always been tricky, and developing it for multiple platforms brings its own headaches.  Like any other developer dealing with more than one platform, is finding different challenges in working with each.  But what Bowman had to say about Android seemed somewhat of a wild pitch.

Bowman Trashtalks Android, Call the Umpire!

In an interview with All Things D, Bowman was asked if ever considered not supporting Android at all.  Unlike many Android app providers, deals with fragmentation issues by strictly limiting which devices they support.  MLB At Bat 11 is only compatable with 11 devices.  And last year’s version only supported six.  The 11 devices are, by carrier, the HTC Evo on Sprint, the HTC Droid Incredible, the Motorola Droid X, Droid, Droid 2, and Droid Pro, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab (all on Verizon), and the HTC Nexus One, the Samsung Nexus S, and the HTC myTouch 4G or Glacier (the last 3 on T-Mobile).  If you’re on AT&T, they won’t play ball with you at all.

Here’s what Bowman said in response to the option of ignoring Android.

The short answer is no. But what we have done is that we don’t support every Android phone. Because at some point, it’s diminishing returns. The Android user typically is less likely to buy, and therefore the ROI on developing for Android is different than it is for Apple.

So according to Bowman, we’re cheapskates.  And that’s not all he thinks we are.  When asked why can’t a robot be more like a fruit, Bowman elaborated:

The iPhone and iPad user is interested in buying content-that’s one of the reasons they bought the device. The Android buyer is different.

It’s a great phone-make no mistake about it. But if you really want first rate digital content on a device, your first look will probably be an iPhone. And on the tablet, an iPad.

I Thought “Think Different” was a Good Thing

Bowman doesn’t explain how we’re different, but the unwillingness of Android users to buy apps and content is already well known.  What he may not know is that in-app advertising ends up generating similar profits. Just ask Rovio which platform is making more money, with Angry Birds available on both iOS as a paid app, and Android with revenue from in-game ads.  It’s an interesting area for him to not mention, being head of a major content source.  He does allude to ads on mobile and then grumbles about Apple taking so much of the subscription fees:

We’ll get 15 to 20 percent of our revenue from sponsorships this year. The most pleasant surprise for 2011 is wireless sponsorship. With all the eyeballs going to mobile-45, 50 percent of our eyeballs will be mobile this year-you have to execute advertising. Otherwise all you’ve done is trade a dollar for 70 cents.

Okay.  We’re cheap.  We’re different (even though Apple exhorts their users to Think Different, he thinks its Android that Is Different).  We’re also from Pittsburgh.

Green Robots Steal More than Bases

Bowman also sat down for an interview with Business Insider about a month ago, and praised Apple’s App Store over the Android Market.  He was concerned with Google’s not vetting apps for suitability, either by preventing malware or preventing imposter apps using the same name or graphics as the official ones.

“I think some sort of curation process would make a lot more content publishers put content that’s valuable on the device,” he says.

Bowman clearly considers Android’s openness to be an invitation for piracy (you were wondering how we were from Pittsburgh, admit it).

There’s also a bigger piracy problem on Android, Bowman says — probably twice as bad as on Apple’s iOS, he estimates. People hack the MLB app, which costs $15, and then distribute it for free in back channels. This is much easier to do on Android than for the iPhone, as you have to hack your iPhone to side-load pirated apps, and most people don’t bother to do that. Most Android phones can easily install pirated apps. Really Doesn’t Like Us Much

Most Android phones can easily install any apps, rather than just what Google says we can install.  That is the advantage of Android over iOS.  What Bowman favors is the equivalent of keeping a child locked in his room all day so he never gets into any mischief.  Okay, that said, I did a search for “MLB at bat 11 sideload” and found a forum thread complete with discussion on where to get the app for free.  (I have no idea if it actually is the app, btw, as I had no intention of installing from a site I didn’t trust.)

However, the iPhone can also be jailbroken, and then apps can be sideloaded.  It just happens that the typical iPhone user doesn’t tend to enjoy that kind of tweaking the way we Android geeks do.  The iOS app is available on the same sites as the Android .apk.

Bottom of the Ninth

Like most baseball fans, Bowman likes statistics.  Unlike most baseball fans, many of Bowman’s stats seem to be made up on the spot.  Twice as much piracy on Android; do you believe that number?  I don’t.  I bet it’s higher.  Here’s more numbers that seem to have been pulled out of the on-deck circle.

Meanwhile, Android owners seem less interested in paying for apps than iPhone owners — perhaps in some part because of the way Google runs its store. Bowman estimates app sales are 5-to-1 in favor of Apple over Google, despite the fact that there are more Android subscribers in the U.S. than iPhone subscribers.

Of course app sales are higher for iOS, there are too many free apps competing with the paid ones.  One thing Bowman did not mention in either interview is his admission that if he couldn’t beat ’em, he’d play exhibition. released a “Lite” version for Android market as well as the $15 paid app.  Judging from the comments over on the Android Market, the fans aren’t cheering for the home team.

MLB At Bat 11, Paid Version, $14.99

  • Access your subscription to watch live out-of-market games or watch the At Free Game of the Day
  • In-progress video highlights
  • At The Ballpark with check-in, expanded highlights, My
  • Profile, social media and more
  • Customized home screen to feature a designated favorite team
  • Favorite team icon widget for one-click access to your favorite team’s homepage
  • MLB widget for in-progress scoreboard
  • Home and away radio broadcasts
  • Gameday pitch-by-pitch tracker
  • Video library archive, searchable by player, team or keyword
  • News, standings, schedules, rosters and stats

MLB AT Bat Lite, Free Version

  • At The Ballpark with check-in, social media and more
  • Customized home screen to feature a designated favorite team
  • Select video clips
  • News, standings, schedules, rosters and stats

What do you think about MLB At Bat 11?  Are you willing to pay $15 for audio on every game this year?  And how about what Bob Bowman had to say about Android versus iOS?  Hit a line drive to the comments below.