The casual baseball fan may not even know Bob Bowman’s name, but if one was to make a list of the most influential people in baseball of the 21st century, Bowman would rank near the top of the list.
Bowman announced publicly on Monday that he will be stepping down as MLB’s president of business and media, effective next month when his current contract expires. The announcement ends his 17 years as head of MLB’s Advanced Media unit that has set the gold standard for a sport’s digital wing.
“With the recent completion of the sale of a majority stake in BAMTech to The Walt Disney Company, and recognizing the enormous talent pool that exists at MLB and MLB.com, it is an ideal time for new leadership. Of all that we have accomplished, I am most proud of the people I have worked with, many of whom have been with me each step of the way over the past 17 years,” Bowman said in an MLB release.
Bowman is the only CEO that MLB Advanced Media has ever had. The development of MLB Advanced Media has been one of the most significant baseball stories of the past two decades.
Under Bowman’s leadership, baseball went from being a sport of regional sports networks with occasional cable and network national games to one where fans can now watch the majority of games each and every day on a wide variety of devices.
That may seem obvious in 2017, but MLB was streaming full games back when Netflix only mailed DVDs and long before Apple released the first iPhone.
And by developing the expertise to stream baseball, MLB Advanced Media quickly turned into the streaming experts that other sports leagues and other video sites turned to when they needed to stream video. HBO Go, the NHL, WWE wrestling and a multitude of other sites have used BAMTech to stream.
Recently, Major League Baseball sold a majority stake in BAMTech to ESPN for more than $2.5 billion. BAMTech is the technology infrastructure company that underpins MLB.tv’s streaming technology.
The development of cable television baseball packages and superstations created significant revenue disparities between smaller and larger revenue teams throughout most of the tail end of the 20th century. Debates about revenue sharing and the disparities between small and large markets played a significant factor in fueling the work stoppage in 1994-1995.
MLBAM didn’t eliminate those debates, but the success of MLBAM has helped to lessen the small market-large market friction, which in turn has helped MLB and the MLB Players Association mark more than 20 years without a strike or lockout.