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Posts Tagged ‘major league baseball’

MLB.TV review

June 28, 2010 7 comments

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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How many times can I pay Major League Baseball?

June 10, 2010 2 comments

Four.  Four times is the answer.

Let me back up.  MLB.TV is a great product.  Major League Baseball is by far ahead of the other sports leagues in terms of non-traditional distribution, and their business model is also setting the new standard, which is: you pay for stuff.

The age of “The Internet = Free” is ending, as I wrote about in There’s a Charge for That? and Will Google TV Destroy TV?

How I came to pay MLB four times for the same thing serves as a fine example of how this new world works.

It all started in 1976 when my dad took me to see Mark Fidrych pitch for the Detroit Tigers.  Ok, that’s going back a little too far. 

I grew up in and around Detroit and Chicago and have a split loyalty between the Tigers and the White Sox.  (screw the Cubs)  Now living in Los Angeles, I signed up for the MLB audio only service “Gameday” a couple years ago so I could stream radio broadcasts of my teams.

Gameday was $15 for the season and AUTO-RENEWED every year. 

That was fine for 2008 and 2009, but as spring of 2010 began and I was surrounding myself with media devices like the iPod Touch, PS/3, Roku, and iPad, pure professional curiousity dictated I experience the audio service, now renamed “At Bat”, on all my various devices and probably upgrade to the video service (MLB.TV) that added live streaming video.

My 2010 At Bat had already auto-renwed, so there’s the first $15.

When I went to download the At Bat iPod Touch app I found the free version did not work with the audio package I already paid for.  To get At Bat audio on the iPod Touch, I had to buy the premium app for $15.   So that’s two times I’ve paid for the audio.

“They are two separate products,” someone from MLB told me.

And of course, if you try going to the web version on your iPhone browser, it redirects you to a page advertising the app.  Nice try buddy.  (and the web version requires Flash, which wouldn’t have worked on an Apple device anyway… are you getting the picture?)

[more below the graphic]

This directly reverses the models that have been more common to this point of digital rights and subscriptions existing “in the cloud” allowing a single paid product to be enjoyed on any device.  This is how Netflix and Amazon do it.  You subcribe or purchase once and any device you log in to gives you access to the rights that exist everywhere.

But this is the new new media of 2010.

Then I find the same deal is in place for the iPad version of the At Bat app.  Unlike many other apps where buying one gets it on both the Pod and the Pad, not so.  A third payment of $15 gets me the iPad version.

Finally, I decide I want to “upgrade” my account to include the video.  Thankfully, this upgrade does apply to all devices, no need to purchase three separate video subscriptions. 

However, there is no “upgrade” path from my initial web only audio “At Bat” to the full “MLB.TV” which includes video AND AUDIO.  I was only able to purchase it at the full price of $100.

Had I not had my original Gameday account on auto-rewew, I would have gained web access to the audio feeds by virutue of my MLB.TV purchase.  However I was unable to apply that $15 against the new $100 purchase (I called MLB twice to try, and the very nice people on the phone told me versions of “hmmm, good question… maybe… let me ask…  I’ll put in a ticket…  It should offer you that option when you purchase…  you can cancel your audio and REQUEST a refund, but I can’t guarantee you’ll get it…”)

None of that came to pass, so finally I broke down.  My time was worth more than the $15 I stood to recover and I figured I’d get to be indignant about it in a future blog post, so I went ahead and bought the $100 package, my fourth purchase of the right to stream audio from MLB this season.

Annoying as it is, these guys know what they’re doing.

Despite all that, I still ended up missing the controversial Galarraga Perfect Game because I had to go to the dentist.

Go Tigers!

iPad week in reviews – Part 3: There’s a charge for that?

April 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Continuing from iPad week in reviews – Part 2

One of the most interesting and apparent aspects of the iPad is how much you spend AFTER you get one.  Much has been written about the hopes of the content and publishing industries that the era of “the Internet is where you get stuff for free” is over.  Everyone sees what happened to the music industry in the last decade (which is that Apple took it over but at prices many feel are too low) and the question is how to avoid the same happening to movies, tv, print, sports and the rest.

Clearly coming out of the gate the play is to see what the market will bear by holding a firm line.  In this world, you have to pay for stuff.

Time Magazine

Time Magazine April 12, 2010 (time.com)

The $4.99 app is getting hammered in the app store reviews, people assumed they were getting a subscription or something like the FREE New York Times app that would be updated continually.

Instead, Time is taking the route of selling a single issue in a slick digital frame. There are very few ads, which somewhat justifies the cost, but that could also be simply that only a few advertisers bit.

The ads they did have were interactive in their way, although the video performance on the ad I tried was poor, it stuttered and quit and I lost interest quickly. That could have been due to my network, but it’s a problem.

I bought the first one out of novelty, I doubt I’ll buy another.

Major League Baseball

Also getting a lot of negative reviews on pricing.  I’ve already paid $15 for audio streaming of any game I want. (I follow the Tigers and White Sox but live in LA) I can get that on the web, but now to get access to the same content I’ve already paid for on the iPad, I need to pay another $15 for an app? And if I want it on my iPod Touch I need to pay again for it there?

And of course if I try to simply browse to the website in the iPad browser to redeem what I’ve already paid for, bzzzt, redirected! (somewhere deep in the terms of use I expect the lawyers snuck the language in to allow that, and it would have required Flash anyway which, oh coincidence, is not available on the iPad)

I did go ahead and bite on this because I can and I’m a fan, but it will be interesting to see how this stance plays out in the market. 

However I attempted to “upgrade” my audio only subscription to the video subscription rather than buying a new full price video subscription (which also includes the audio portion).  It’s not easy.  They clearly want to charge me a fourth time for something I already have, and to avoid that requires phoning them and waiting for the issue to be escalated.  It’s been four days so far and it’s still not working.  And I’m not the only one, see this post about struggling to upgrade GameDay Audio to MLB.tv.

App pricing

Apps are going for much higher rates than typical for iPhone apps.  $9.99 seems to be the norm, rather than $.99 as you see on the smaller platforms.

With Apple’s closed development platform, exclusion of Flash, proprietary everything and massive buzz making marketing, the play is clearly to hook users into a premium environment with few options and generate the necessary critical mass to make it the only tablet/reader game worth playing in.

Apple has been succesful so far with the iPhone and they’re on their way again with the iPad.  HP and Google are expected to enter the market with their own devices with open environments.  The question is whether they’ll be able to match the Apple buzz factor, create an app market, and gain significant market share.  The second question is do enough people really care, the tablet market is unproven and may only appeal to a niche audience.

What do you think?