Home > Reviews > MLB.TV review

MLB.TV review

As I mentioned in another post, MLB.TV is a stellar model for video content on connected Internet devices.  Their business model is aggressive, but the product is excellent. 

Having used it for a good part of the 2010 season now, here are some thoughts on the various hardware platforms where it is available.

Note I have only the basic MLB.TV, not the high end version, so I do not have all the DVR functionality or choice of feeds.

Overall the product is very well conceived.  It has options to mask all scores so you can safely enter the app to pick up a game from the beginning without seeing the score or outcome.  You can start at any inning or go to the live point.

There are no ads, when the ad break comes you get a silent pleasant blue card while you wait.  According to an MLB presentation I saw last year at Adobe Max, they are restricted from rebroadcasting local ads into other markets (something not true on the similar DirecTV product or on MLB’s audio only product).  They also said they have not worked out all the details to consider inserting their own ads.  So for now at least, you get a nice ad-free experience in exchange for the $100-120 you paid up front.  (Hear that, Hulu?)

The Web

Rock solid.  Does just what you want it to.  Only one glitch I found while resizing windows the video did not resize when the video did, so about half the image was cut off.  I had to kill the window and reopen it to restore.  No big deal.

The iPod Touch

Video performance is an issue for me.  It crashes and stutters frequently.  Image quality is poor, possibly due to the limted processing power.   It could be related to the bandwidth available, however in the same location I didn’t have as much trouble with…

The iPad

Better.  The video performance is better than the Touch.  It still crashes occasionally and for the most part I find myself going back to audio only.  Also the app itself isn’t as good as the Touch app, it feels cluttered to me, not as intuitive, and it lacks a standings section for some reason. 

I am still skeptical of the iPad as a video device.  I rarely take it out of the house where I have a much better video device known as A Television Set (with a number of connected devices attached).  When I do rarely take it to the office, I prefer to listen to the radio versions of ball games so I can keep my eyes on my work (Hear that, Boss?).  I know some people are bullish on video on the iPad, and I don’t deny it can work for some, it just so far has not worked for me, and least for long form video.

The Roku Box

Simple.  If the Roku has a fault, it’s that it’s too simple, but it passes the Mom Test.  Just about anyone can use this thing, it just works.

I recently moved my Roku into my home office where I have a small TV next to my computer.  Since my main TV has an Xbox and a PS/3, the Roku has become a bit redundant, so it’s now demoted to auxillary room status. 

At one point this last weekend I had the White Sox on mute on the small TV via Roku, and the iPad running the audio of the Tigers game while I worked at my PC.  This was better than juggling windows on the PC itself. 

PS/3

Slick.  This is my favorite place to use MLB.TV.  The interface is responsive, the streams start fast and video quality adjustments happen seamlessly (without a pause like the Roku).

The only negatives are slight and can be blamed on the PS/3:  it was not easy to find the app in the first place to install it, and I’d prefer to use the center “select” button on my PS/3 media remote rather than the “X” button, but I’m guessing that’s a design requirement to be consistent with other apps on that device.

If I could only choose one device however, ironically it would be the one that generally performs the worst for video, the iPod Touch, because it’s always with me.  I mostly use it for audio only, because most of my eastern teams’ games are on while I’m still at work here on the west coast.

For home viewing of video, the one I’d keep would be the PS/3.

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  1. jay robertson
    June 28, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    I’d beg to differ; while MLB.TV holds promise, it still has some serious glitches. I was a subscriber for the last two months of the 2009 season; I had so many problems with MLB not recognizing my location when using my laptop, I dropped the service. I would try to log on while on the road, only to get the warning that I was in a blackout area, and could not watch my chosen game. ( I wasn’t – a ten minute call to MLB customer service would solve the problem, but that was the ONLY solution – it got very tiresome to be forced to call every time I wanted to watch a game while away from home.)

    This year, I tried again – it is so promising that I gave it another shot. It works fine over a fast cable connection, both on my computer and my PS3. But while slick, the PS3 doesn’t give you access to all of the features that are available on the computer, including the 4 way split screen that Premium offers. Which is counterintuitive – I can watch 4 games on my computer, but not on my 55″ plasma and PS3?

    I could live with that, but what is worse are server issues – when MLB.TV experiences a heavier load than expected, the HD quality drops off rather quickly; and you know, I could even live with that, but sometimes the feed will lockup for an entire inning, and when it comes back, your team can easily be ahead or behind by a couple of runs. I tried to watch an archived game last weekend, and discovered a new glitch – every 5-10 minutes (sometimes less) the game would go back to the beginning of the game. I use the “Jump to Inning” feature, and then ff to where I was, but the game would skip back to the beginning. Behaving much like an overused dvd rented from your local low budget rental store.

    It was at that point I discovered that MLB.TV’s customer service had dropped in quality along with its feed. I’m no longer a subscriber. Maybe I’ll try again next year.

    Good luck to everyone else – its pretty good when its working (as long as you realize you can NEVER watch your local team, even if they’re playing on the road. Nor can you watch a nationally televised game, even if your local Fox station is NOT broadcasting that game.)

  2. Roberto Montesinos
    June 28, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    How would this ad-free model work for residual payments to actors, writers and directors that you do the wink-wink to Hulu? This residual model was at the forefront of a recent strike by writers and the issue was kicked down the road for further study. Negotiations are coming up in the next year or so – what has been learned thus far to offset another potential labor action?

  3. Dennis
    April 5, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    As Jay mentioned, MLBTV customer service is appalling. Folks are nice enough on the phone…when you finally reach a live human after waiting long enough to wash and dry the dishes. But my primary complaint with the service is the blackout of a home team’s games, even when playing away. Living in the LA area we have ample access to the TV (which we rarely watch anyway) via antenna. So we have no way of watching live home team games because MLB apparently succumbs to economic pressure and restricts access. What’s to lose by offering options in a world of increasing means of access? BTW, Roberto, MLB is not ad-free for the very reason I am complaining–ad supported cable media is the ultimate reason I can’t get my home team games live on MLBTV.
    Finally, if you question customer service via email in order to decide within the five day period whether you want to cancel for a refund, don’t expect an answer for, say, three days, after which the information you sought and needed to make a decision has gone beyond the refund limit.

  4. Steve
    April 14, 2011 at 8:56 am

    MLB TV is not worth the money. You will always be blacked out from watching your home team no matter where they are playing. If you want the service so you can follow your team while you are out and about, but still in your home area you are out of luck. You are better off with cable or DirecTV and a Slingbox or eyeTV that can send your TV signal to your iPad or iPhone. You are not going to get HD video when you are out in a park using 3G anyway. Don’t give your money to MLB. Invest in some hardware and you can watch anything you want, not just what MLB wants you to see.

  5. Gregory Mudzinski
    May 31, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Not nearly reliable enough to be worth the money. Frustration overload occurs quite often when picture quality degrades, or worse, when the picture freezes at a critial moment, or still worse, when it drops the connection. I can reliably stream HD quality movies from Netflix and Amazon; not enen close for mlb.

  6. Dave
    August 17, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Yes, the dreaded “Blackout area” restrictions made the service next to useless for a Red Sox fan living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

  7. jnhks007
    April 8, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    A TV interface that’s designed to work on a PC, but doesn’t re-size? Quality on MLB TV for 2012 is STELLAR….. but I won’t subscribe. Why? Well, if it’s designed to use on a PC… then it should be designed to integrate with multi-tasking. (e.g. working on my PC while watching the game on a re-sized small screen on my PC). In short, software interfaces should be resizeable… including all their container objects. When MLB adds a ‘pop-out’ feature that will allow me to re-size the game on my PC screen, I’m subscribing.

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