For the past three years I’ve subscribed to MLB.tv, and this year shouldn’t be any different. The $120 per year has always paid for itself in terms of entertainment dollars per hour, and now that they’ve lowered the price to $110, that goes even more so. No, I can’t watch Yankees games on it, but I can watch the Yanks on TV and have another game in front of me on my monitor. Or, if I’m feeling really ambitious, I can hook up my second monitor, allowing me to watch the Yanks, watch another game, and comment on the game thread.
As Brad Stone of the New York Times notes, there are a few upgrades to the MLB.tv package this year. It sounds like they’re going for a Netflix streaming system, rather than having the user select a speed: “Technology by Swarmcast, a content delivery network with headquarters in Minneapolis and Tokyo, will help the league determine the speed of a fan’s Internet connection and adjust the quality of the video accordingly.” So if we’re somewhere between the 800K and 1.5MB quality, we’ll get something in the middle, not the lesser of the two.
My favorite upgrade is that you can now overlay radio broadcasters on the TV feed. Sick of Kay? Listen to Sterling. Sick of them both? Listen to the out of town radio announcer. I’m not sure how widely used this feature will be, but it does raise the possibility of a feature I’ve been pondering for a while.
Why not really open up the platform? Allow users to start their own announcing channels. An individual or group could enter a special room, kind of like our live chats, where they can provide their own play by play and color commentary. Other users can then overlay that rather than a mainstream broadcaster. I can see this not only being a fun feature for fans, but something that could drum up some more interest in the MLB.tv service. Most people do not want to watch baseball on their computers, but I’m sure a number would give it a shot if they either got to call the game themselves, or if they got to listen to a less insufferable commentator.
On the technical end, the downside is that the amateur commentators won’t have a view of the whole field like the guys in the booth do. That could be remedied, I suppose, by providing multiple camera angles to the amateur announcers. Would MLB and the broadcasters be willing to do that? I’m not sure, but I don’t see why not. In fact, that might be another feature in itself, the ability to watch the game from any camera in the park.
The question which will determine the feasibility of this: How will the media outlets react? They pay big bucks for the exclusive rights to broadcast games, and they might not be on board with amateur announcers cutting into the time of their professionals. MLB won’t want to compromise their relationships with these outlets, so if they say no, that could render this idea DOA. Still, it’s something which I think would bring more viewers to the MLB.tv platform and which would provide an opportunity for new voices to be found.