Play Ball: Yahoo Strikes Deal With MLB.com

In the midst of its furious takeover fight with Microsoft, Yahoo continues to churn out a stream of business-as-usual deals.

The Web portal on Thursday announced a three-year deal with MLB.com, Major League Baseball's digital arm, involving video distribution and related advertising.

Under the agreement, Yahoo will offer a co-branded version of the MLB.TV media player on Yahoo Sports, allowing users to see live and on-demand baseball games except for those in a viewer's home market. The service is available to fans in 11 countries including the U.S., Canada and Mexico and amounts to 2,400 games a year.

Yahoo and MLB.com will share responsibility for video ad sales during the 2008 season before Yahoo takes over that role exclusively in 2009 and 2010. Each game will feature a pre- and post-roll ad as well as four to six spots during game breaks such as between innings and during pitching changes.

In addition to upfront payments to MLB.com, the partnership calls for Yahoo to share an undisclosed portion of annual ad revenues with its content partner.

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"One of our priorities is to establish ourselves as the partner of choice for all of the major league sports," said Jimmy Pitaro, general manager of Yahoo Sports. "We firmly believe we're executing against that goal through this relationship."

He added that the deal would help MLB.com expand its audience beyond hardcore to casual fans. Yahoo Sports drew 19.2 million unique visitors in February 2008--up from 13.1 million in the year-earlier period, according to comScore.

While no specific advertisers are on board yet for MLB.TV via Yahoo, talks are underway. "We have had high-level discussions with several major advertisers and we're very optimistic," Pitaro said.

In the first year of the deal, Yahoo will offer its Clickable video ad format (allowing users to click through on video ads) along with standard pre- and post-roll ads. Thereafter, all video ad inventory will be powered by Yahoo's new AMP ad platform.

MLB.TV requires a subscription of $14.95 or $19.95 a month (or $89.95 or $119.95 annually), depending on video quality. Subscription charges will be the same for the new co-branded Yahoo Sports version.

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