MLB.TV and MLB At Bat 2010

I really like baseball. I try to watch as many games as I can, but I like to follow some out-of-market teams/players that don't get broadcast on my local cable network. So when the 2010 Major League Baseball season started, I decided to subscribe to their MLB.TV service.  I haven't regretted it.

For $100 or $120 (depending on the package you choose) you get access to the entire season of baseball. That's 2,430 featuring all 30 teams in all 30 ballparks. Unfortunately, games are still subject to rights-holder blackout restrictions based on your location. That basically means that if a game is being broadcast on television in the area in which you're located, then you will be restricted to listening to the audio-only (e.g. radio) broadcast of the game, even if that channel is one that you don't receive. Obviously, this can make it difficult to follow your home team, but it's a great way to follow out-of-market teams and players.

Despite the blackout restrictions, all games eventually get archived and compressed. Archived games are basically full-length affairs complete with commercial breaks but not the commercials themselves. Fortunately, you can skip directly to either half of a particular inning. Compressed games are just that--the "good parts only" of a game that contain notable offensive or defensive developments. A typical game with a full-length of three hours can be compressed into a 15-20 minute affair. The archived games are usually up within 12 hours of the end of a game with compressed games coming within a day.

If this were all there were to MLB.TV, it would still be years ahead of the offerings from other professional sports leagues, but the mobile offerings may be even more impressive. Using the MLB At Bat 2010 app for the iPhone/iPod or the iPad (two separate versions, $14.99 each) you can keep up with games in progress down to a pitch-by-pitch tracking of each at bat. You can pull up previous games' box scores, see the schedule for any team, or get up-to-date stats for any player. You can listen to the live radio broadcast for either team, and if you are an MLB.TV subscriber, you can even watch live games over a Wi-Fi or 3G network! Each day the MLB will offer one or two complimentary games that can be watched live without a subscription. Naturally blackout rules still apply to all televised broadcasts. Though I have never used the iPad version of the app, it makes use of the bigger screen to show more information, and I have first-hand reports that indicate that it is every bit as impressive as its iPhone/iPod counterpart.

The latest jewel in the crown of MLB Advanced Media is the PlayStation 3 app that allows streaming of live and archived television games to Sony's gaming console. This new app arrived like a response to a wish for the ability to bring the wealth of MLB.TV to the best screen in the house. Interestingly, unlike the apps for Apple devices, the PS3 app is a free download from the PlayStation Store. To be fair, other than a calendar with each team's schedule, the PS3 app does only one thing--streaming TV broadcasts--and it does it very well. Broadcasts are in HD and look just shy of what I get from my cable provider. Scene transitions tend to show compression as do large patches of similar color like the grass or an outfield wall, but other than that, it's perfectly watchable HD. The PS3 app does not contain the standings, player stats, or any of the other information that you can find in the iPhone app, nor does it allow the split-screen or picture-in-picture viewing that's possible using a computer running Adobe Flash, but it does allow you to kick back comfortably on your sofa and watch games without running down your batteries.

If you are a hardcore baseball fan, I wholeheartedly recommend a subscription to MLB.TV. If you're a moderate baseball fan with an iPhone, iPod, or iPad, then I recommend the MLB At Bat 2010 app. And the combination of those two has represented the best way for me to get my baseball fix. Now if only there were an app to improve my teams' situational hitting...