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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.