How BAMTECH doubled MLB At Bat app subscribers

MLB At Bat
  • Increasing Conversion to Trial and Conversion to Paid Subscriber metrics is critical for app-based businesses
  • Paywall and Upsell screens are generally the largest lever a team can use to impact app subscriber metrics
  • Making your app screens dynamic so that you can personalize and contextualize screen content for different segments of your audience will make a large impact, but will take time to build

The smartest PMs, Growth PMs, Growth Marketers, Engineers and Designers know that the most impactful work delivers a direct increase to the bottom line.

The mobile app Paywall screen, also known as an Upsell, is the screen shown before the native paysheet, and is a great place to look if you’re looking to make a significant impact.

As the legendary @jmj attests below, the work is never done on such a crucial part of your subscription funnel.

@jmj tweets about paywalls


MLB At Bat Paywall Experiments to increase app subscribers

At BAMTech in 2017, Major League Baseball was actively working on their flagship app, At Bat. 

Users of the At Bat app were familiar with “At Bat Premium,” the premium subscription for listening to their favorite teams’ baseball games. Despite being familiar with the subscription, only a small amount of users were subscribers — a number much lower than the BAMTech team would have expected given what they knew about the MLB fanbase. Furthermore, the team at BAMTech knew that once users subscribed, churn was extremely low.

Based on this knowledge, they focused their sights on converting more app users to paid subscribers, starting with the paywall screen. 

Test #1 – Button layout

For the first Paywall screen test, the team experimented with several layouts: most notably single button vs double button.  

For At Bat, offering both Monthly and Annual subscriptions increased the conversion to paid subscriber.

Sample Paywall Buttons Tested

Test #2 – Personalized background images

In a later test, the team experimented with background images.  They tested both fullscreen and cropped background images, which didn’t appear to make a difference.  They then showed Houston Astros fans an Astros background, A’s fans an A’s background, etc. 

The personalization of showing their favorite team made a huge difference and ended up increasing conversion by double digits.

Example Personalized MLB Paywalls


Test #3 – Personalized screen design with team colors and copy

Next, they updated the buttons on the paywall screen to use the specific team colors for all 30 teams, and then targeted those contextualized paywalls at fans of those teams.  This gave them another 21% lift.

After that test, the BAMTech team experimented with several iterations of copy to ensure it was both contextual and personalized to the user’s favorite team

Measuring the success of paywall experiments

To measure the impact made by experiments like this, you can start by looking at individual metrics like:

  • Conversion to Trial
  • Trial to Paid %
  • First Billing Event Retention

The real measure of success is to see the combined impact as an increase in LTV.

With several double digit increases in conversion compounding, the BAMTech team ended up 2x’ing conversion, and then applying these lessons to the NHL app, which they also managed at the time.  Over the course of an entire season of billing events – this would end up more than doubling BAMTech’s revenue target for the year.

Invest in dynamic components to see big results

The road to this improvement was not easy, it took months of begging and borrowing resources from other projects to build all of the dynamic components needed to run these experiments.

What’s interesting is that the BAMTech team barely scratched the surface in the list of tests they wanted to run, and yet they still saw substantial conversion and revenue increase.

Building the tools to enable experimentation, however minor, is an investment well worth your while.


Interested in running your own tests? 

With the mbark Platform, teams can now get this experimentation up and running in a matter of hours. 

If your business could benefit from tests like this to increase app subscribers, create an account for free and or join our Discord to connect with us.

We are happy to help you and your team improve conversion.