on the bench

Major League Baseball's Web site falls offline as enthused fans log on in droves to hear audio play of their favorite games.

It's opening day for baseball season, and there's already been a foul ball.

Major League Baseball's Web site fell offline Monday morning as enthused fans logged on in droves to hear audio play of their favorite games.

"We seem to have been down for a brief period this morning, and we're attributing that to the several gazillion people who came to our site for opening day," said MLB spokesman Jim Gallagher.

The slip-up comes one week after the league announced it would begin charging fans to hear audio broadcasts of baseball games. That deal was announced in conjunction with RealNetworks. Consumers will be charged $4.95 a month for access to audio content. Alternatively, people can pay $9.95 a month for RealNetworks' GoldPass subscription service, which also includes National Basketball Association audio broadcasts.

Although the service is free for the first few days of the season, angry fans vented about inaccessibility this morning. Darryl Machan contacted CNET after he attempted to log on to listen to the Atlanta Braves game.

"If they are going to charge for a subscription, they had better make darn sure subscribers can access what they paid for," Machan wrote in an e-mail. "Before today, I had no problem paying $9.95 for access, but I am now going to wait and see."

MLB's decision to begin charging for its content threatens to alienate some customers, but it's a move that has been taken by an increasing number of cash-strapped Web sites.

In the face of slowing online advertising sales,, and are among the sites that have recently turned to subscription models in attempts to generate revenue.

Others have pushed to sell larger ads or consolidate operations and cut staff.

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