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How baseball gave us streaming, and an update on self-driving cars | Intent, 0010

The story behind BAMTech and the latest fundings & findings with AVs

Intent is all about helping talent in tech become more intentional with their career by becoming more informed, more fluent, and more aware about the goings-on within tech and adjacent industries. We welcome your feedback!

The Agenda ahead:

  • A deep-dive on MLB’s BAMTech, now known as Disney Streaming

  • Some self-driving cars hit road bumps, others skip them over

  • The newest names in renewables

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How baseball gave us the gift of modern media streaming

Midjourney: a scifi baseball game being played on an old television from the early 1900s --ar 4:1 --v 5.1

Streaming platforms are back in the news – this time, for price increases that are seemingly coming from every major service. Recently, Hulu and Disney+ raised their premium monthly subscription prices by more than 20% each, followed by Peacock raising prices across all plans — all following Netflix’s lead.

These are contentious topics, especially in the midst of the writers’ and actors’ strike (which we wrote about in a previous issue).

Companies state that these streaming platforms aren’t profitable — but if that’s the case, why does it seem like every provider has gotten one launched so quickly? We’re going to explore that through the lens of the company that pioneered much of the early days of streaming. No, not Netflix — we’re talking about BAMTech.

What is BAMTech?

Originally developed by the MLB (yes, Major League Baseball) in 2000 to live stream baseball games, BAMTech is (or was) a platform enabling over-the-top (OTT) video streaming – in other words, media that doesn’t come through your TV cable wires.

BAMTech’s initial product was MLB.TV, the first sports league streaming service that broadcast consistently online and on a single platform. It is still regarded as the gold standard in sports streaming 20 years later. They handled large-scale events before anyone else in streaming, and handled live events with reliability at a time when everyone else’s live events would break on arrival.

Its real-time streaming product featured minimal latency to audiences of millions. Its core infrastructure utilized CDNs, adaptive bitrate streaming, and load balancing to scale more elegantly than other solutions. Beyond that, their security and content protection protocols gave confidence to media makers that they were protected from freeloaders. That’s why MLB’s Advanced Media arm spun it out (alongside outside inventors) in 2015.

It was officially acquired by Disney for $900M in 2022 (now known as Disney Streaming), and has become one of the premier platforms supporting media companies across the industry. Platforms that BAMTech fueled throughout the years include:

  • HBO NOW’s initial launch

  • Hulu’s live TV offering

  • Playstation VUE live streaming service

  • WWE Network streaming service (the first end-to-end client solution)


  • NHL.TV

  • Riot Games’ League of Legends livestreams

  • FoxSportsGo

And now, after its acquisition by Disney (read a full timeline on here), it’s the platform used to support Disney+. Not only that — they still support Hulu (a Disney subsidiary) and ESPN+ (a Disney subsidiary, and their catch-all sports streaming service).

Why does this even matter?

The Disney acquisition seemed like a big bet at the time, but one of the key factors for Disney was the impressive adtech behind the scenes. BAMTech was seen as the best in the business when it comes to location-based ads, which is key to online streaming profitability given that local media buyers want to know that they’re hitting viewers in their region. Relevant, hyper-localized ads are the only way to effectively monetize local sports broadcasts.

Once you connect the dots, it’s clear that much of the streaming economy we know today started with BAMTech as an early innovator — Netflix didn’t start streaming until 5 years after BAMTech’s first product launch. And with Disney+ anticipating profitability by next year while all providers introduce ad-supported subscription tiers, it becomes obvious what the future might hold.

That’s your brief history lesson on streaming, and the growth BAMTech enabled through its early innovation.

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Quick Hits

  • Tesla supplier CATL unveils revolutionary EV battery that can add up to 400km of range in 10 minutes – TechCrunch

  • Startup slowdown: New unicorn creation has drastically dwindled from 2 per day to 2 per month – Crunchbase

  • Surgeons successfully restore touch and movement in quadriplegic man using AI brain implants – Euronews

  • OpenAI acquires Global Illumination, a startup using AI to build creative tools, infrastructure, and digital experiences – OpenAI press release

  • Google is developing an AI that gives life advice – Engadget

  • Robots are now at beating ‘are you a robot?’ tests better than humans – NewScientist

What’s the latest with self-driving cars?

Midjourney: creative cartoon anthropomorphic self-driving autonomous smiling car, clean --ar 4:1 --v 5.1

Last week, California state regulators voted in favor of allowing driverless cars in the form of robotaxis to operate 24/7 in San Francisco – the hope: less human error would mean safer streets, and boosts to the local economy thanks to ease of travel.

Naturally, there’s been pushback – some claim they’re slowing down traffic. By the looks of this viral TikTok, there’s a case to be made. At a time when traffic fatalities are rising across most US cities, it does seem that autonomous vehicles (AVs) might be a solution if they reduce human error. Neither Waymo nor Cruise have released truly comprehensive data, so we don’t know the details.

Self-driving safety is a concern for Tesla, though. The company’s Autopilot and Full Self Driving features, which are not yet fully autonomous and require a human behind the wheel, have been scrutinized by regulators. Since 2016, the U.S. NHTSA has opened more than three dozen special crash investigations in cases where systems such as Autopilot were suspected of being used, with 22 crash deaths reported – which could complicate arguments for the future of these systems.

Other highlights from the self-driving future:

On the mainstream front, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is testing brand new autonomous street cleaners manufactured by Finland-based Trombia Technologies. The sweeper is smaller than the typically-massive, noisy street vacuums we’re used to, and can get into previously inaccessible tight spaces.

As far as investment, Toyota and Nvidia put $43 million into Foretellix, an Israeli company developing automated and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) — they recently announced $93M in a Series C.

Cruise is investing into ADAS advancement. Their next big thing is their Ultra Cruise ADAS system, which offers hands-off driving so long as the human pilot is paying attention. It’s set to launch in GM’s Cadillac Celestiq luxury EV late this year or in early 2024.

After shutting down Argo, its former self-driving unit, 120-year-old Ford launched a new automated driving system subsidiary called Latitute AI. This will expand on the company's existing “BlueCruise” technology, which already offers hands-free highway driving on some Ford models.

On the tech front, despite lidar tech becoming the industry standard to power AVs, a startup called Altos Radar is stepping up to the plate with 4D millimeter wave radar. They recently raised their first round of funding ($3.5M). The technical deets? It has a 350-meter sensing range – longer than most lidar products and handy for highway driving. It also works in most weather conditions because it can penetrate objects.

McKinsey predicted earlier this year that ADAS systems specifically could prove the most value to the auto industry, and allow for wider adoption. In 2022, true autonomous vehicle investments went down nearly 60 percent YoY as startups coped with layoffs or closures. The progress so far indicates a promise for a safer future, but for now, humans still need to be behind the wheel.

Renewables are so hot right now

With new temperature records being set seemingly every day, we thought it might be a good idea to highlight companies who are trying to address climate change with renewable energy.

Here are some you might not have heard of:

  • Kitepower ($4.24M raised) is a Netherlands-based startup that uses large kites to generate energy as a cost effective alternative to wind turbines. Their kite-tech is produced with 90% less material than conventional wind turbines, and boast a higher energy production capacity to boot.

  • Phelas ($652K raised) claims to have created a potentially groundbreaking electricity storage system that stores energy in liquid air (which is apparently a thing), allowing it to be 24/7 accessible energy for utilities, grid administrators, businesses, and producers of renewable energy.

  • Wegaw ($2.5M raised) is a startup that uses AI-enabled satellite data to monitor and process data regarding renewable energy resources like water and snow, helping companies increase the value of renewable energy and utilities assets.

  • Ample ($290M raised) uses autonomous robotics and smart-battery technology to economically and quickly deploy a widely accessible platform that delivers a full charge to any electric car in minutes.

  • Epishine ($12.5M raised) is a Swedish startup that develops organic printed solar cells, enabling sustainable buildings and removing disposable batteries from the equation to focus on a completely renewable future.

  • Celtic Renewables ($36.2M raised) is a Scottish biotech startup producing biofuel (and other high-value sustainable products like Acetone and Butanol) from the by-products of farming and petrochemical processes. They initially focused on the £4 billion Scottish Malt Whisky industry as a resource for developing biobutanol.

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