Sep
11

More Yankees on my tablet, please

By

It was mid-February, and we were jonesing for some baseball. At Bloomberg headquarters we got a close approximation. In 2010 Bloomberg decided to expand into the sports realm, offering a products for both consumers and professionals. To help spread the word, they held an all-day event to introduce their fantasy baseball and Pitch f/x analysis tools. As expected they both impressed. In 2011 Bloomberg was ready for a update, and again they invited Ben, Mike, and me, among many other blogging and media types, to their headquarters for another day of baseball in February. This time around, we got something out of it.

One feature they touted frequently was the implementation of their pro tool — the Pitch f/x analysis — on the iPad. They had developed an app that players could use at their lockers, at their hotels, or really any place when they had some free time. The app gave them not only information on hitters they would face, but also information on themselves. They could, for example, pull up a screen that would list every cutter they threw on the season. They’d not only see the Pitch f/x information on said pitch, but also videos of every instance. As you can imagine, the three of us salivated over the possibilities.

Of course, the app was not available to us. It was marketed to teams, and they paid top dollar for this level of analysis. Even if Bloomberg made it available to other entities, RAB clearly could not afford that type of application. But it did spark an idea. As we broke for lunch, Ben, Mike, and I huddled together to talk about how the tools they introduced — particularly the free fantasy ones — could help us at RAB. Only that’s not where the conversation went. Ben gets all the credit here, because he was the first one to blurt it out: “We should get iPads.” I wasn’t about to say no to that. Nor was Mike. And so, while in Arizona for Spring Training, we each picked up an iPad on launch day. I can’t speak for Mike or Ben, but it has changed the way I watch baseball.

By combining the MLB At Bat 11 app with my MLB.tv subscription, I’m able to watch any game, at any time, on my iPad. This works greatly when I’m already watching the Yankees game. It allows me to keep up with other games around the league at the same time. If Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw are going head-to-head at the same time a Yankees game is on, it’s no issue. Yankees on the TV, Dodgers-Giants on the iPad. Keeping up with the division rivals has been easier, too. In fact, MLB.tv on my iPad has essentially been my Red Sox tube. What better way to keep up with the rivalry than keeping tabs on the other side?

Beyond that, the At Bat app offers condensed games and tons of highlight clips, all of which load almost instantly. If I did miss a game, well, I didn’t really miss it. This works for the Yankees, too. I can jump right into the condensed game if I happened to miss it the night before. It takes just 15 minutes, and most of the action gets chronicled on the condensed game. Highlights, too, allowed me to keep up with the entire league and, for the first five months of the season, write my daily recap column on FanGraphs.

There is only one downside to all this, though: I want more ways to watch live Yankees games. Yes, this is an issue because of broadcast and rebroadcast rights. YES doesn’t want to lose TV viewers, because they then lose ad revenue. Since it’s more difficult to track people who are watching mobile devices, they clearly prefer I watch it through my cable subscription. But that doesn’t always play. See, the iPad is a portable device. It doesn’t just live in my living room. It goes to friends’ houses and on plane and train rides. And yet, unless I happen to be traveling outside of the Yankees broadcast area, I can have this big, beautiful tablet and no way to watch the Yankees on it.

There are some solutions. For instance, my cable provider, Cablevision, has an app that allows me to watch TV right on my iPad. Yet that’s still restrictive. It only works on my home WiFi network, meaning I can only watch those games at home. There are uses for that, of course; during day games I can just prop up my iPad and watch at my desk (which faces away from the TV) while I work. It also allows me to work a bit later in the evenings if necessary. But it doesn’t help me when at a friend’s house who doesn’t have cable. Really, it doesn’t help me watch the Yankees when I’m out of the house.

Recently I’ve been playing with the BlackBerry PlayBook, a tablet PC competitor to the iPad, as a review unit. While it’s not as pretty as the iPad, it does offer a number of advantages. For starters, it’s a ton smaller than the iPad, meaning it’s more portable. I can see toting this around town, on train rides, at coffee shops, etc. Yet there is no way to watch baseball on the PlayBook. The screen is great, and video, even streaming video, renders very well on its 7-inch screen. But there is no At Bat app, never mind one for my cable provider. That’s a bit disheartening.

There are clear conflicts here that prevent me from watching baseball wherever I want. YES has the exclusive rights to broadcast most Yankees games, and they need to make money. If they’re not making money off me watching on my tablet, they have little reason to allow that type of usage. At the same time, I already pay a hefty monthly cable and internet bill, and I’m not inclined to pay too much more for the same viewing privileges on different devices. Hence, consumers and broadcasters are at something of a stalemate. Nothing seems to make sense for both sides, and so we maintain the status quo.

It has become pretty clear that tablet computers will play a large part in our lives for the next few years. They provide entertainment in ways that other devices cannot. Yet, at the same time, given current broadcast regulations, it can be difficult to get the most out of these devices. The ability to watch the Yankees wherever I am makes a tablet that much more valuable. Hopefully these forces will move broadcasters closer to consumers and perhaps create offerings that allow us to watch the Yankees on our tablets while still in the YES home area. It’s really all I want for Christmas.

Categories : Rants
  • http://www.yankeeanalysts.com/ Steve S.

    This is why God invented the sports bar.

    This, and easy access to bookies and other underworld types.

    • Urban

      …and alcohol, to help dull the pain of the Yankees losing four straight.

  • Shuffle Cards for fun

    Its always awesome when you have two TVs in your room

  • Dale Mohorcic

    While I understand the need for a tv network to maintain viewership for ad revenue, the reality is that if have a choice, I will always watch a game on tv instead of an Internet device. The silly thing about the broadcasts on MLB.tv is that they run no ads at all-just a blank commercial break in progress screen. Since MLB.tv tracks location to determine if you cam view a game, if seems like there’s a simple solution: if you are in the current blackout area, than just run the ads. If outside, there should be a way for MLB to run local ads from the market you are in. Of course, digital ads traditionally have lower CPM’s than tv ads, but I consider each Internet viewer a net positive-after all, these are loyalists that pay for the privilege to watch-they are the most likely to tune in where and when they can in the best medium available. Its the supposed promise of tv everywhere. I think the biggest stumbling block is that MLB takes all the Internet revenue and they are unlikely to share it.

    • Plank

      The reason the Yankees are against a move like this is because every cable subscription in the NY area has YES on it. The cable company must pay the Yankees for every subscriber to their service whether they want the Yankees or not. That is why there was no YES in NY with the spat between cablevision and YES a few years ago.

      Every cable subscriber must pay YES indirectly via the cable company to get the YES channel whether they want it or not. If the payment method goes to strictly ad revenue based on who watches the channel, the Yankees revenue stream will decrease.

      On top of that, the cable companies need the games on cable only so people don’t stop subscribing. The teams and cable providers are working at times in concert and times against each other, but always to get as much money from the pockets of citizens through monopoly-like tactics.

      There is no logistical reason for preventing it, just a financial one.

      • Dale Mohorcic

        But they can offer the service to existing subscribers like they do with HBO Go. This is not a valid reason to stop people from viewing via a digital distribution method. It may very well be that subscribers in the NY area have to watch thru one app and subscribers outside the NY area watch thru another app. However, this is not an insurmountable problem. I think the parties in charge are simply stuck operating in an old model.

        • Plank

          They CAN do anything they want. Blackouts were originally to attempt to get people to come to the stadium if they were close enough to get there. They are now in place to keep people tethered to the cable box.
          They choose not to do these things because they make more money the way it is now. It’s not a fear of new technology.

  • MUIDATS EEKNAY

    “And yet, unless I happen to be traveling outside of the Yankees broadcast area, I can have this big, beautiful tablet and no way to watch the Yankees on it.”

    Pro tip: the MLB At Bat 11 app bases your blackout restrictions on your GPS location. If you jailbreak your iDevice, you can trick any app into thinking you’re anywhere. So whenever there’s a nationally-broadcast Fox or ESPN game, or I’m actually in the YES broadcast zone, I always seem to teleport to a random street in Montreal…

    • DF

      You, sir, are my new favorite person.

      Perhaps stupidly, I have a jailbroken iPhone and iPad, but had no idea I could trick the GPS.

  • Ed Torres

    You can combine a sling box (to watch live games) with your MLB.tv/at bat app.

  • http://www.movoto.com/property/ny/buffalo.html New York Realtor

    “Since it’s more difficult to track people who are watching mobile devices, they clearly prefer I watch it through my cable subscription.”

    Hogwash. It is much, much easier to track people on anything that is connected to the internet than TV. TV ratings are based on once or twice a year surveys. Everything on the internet is tracked, monitored, and saved. With things like Google Analytics and Tealeaf, mlb.com should know exactly how many people watch, and for how long, each and every game.

    They could also offer Facebook connect and get super precise demographic information. Heck, even Google can you demographic information.

    Everything should be on the internet already in real time. The fact that people say “they won’t do it because they can’t track how many people see it” is just absolutely false. TV executives are just afraid to move to a new medium.

    • http://www.worldcinemainc.com/ WorldCinema

      This. The internet offers a crazy amount of measurability, you’d think that providers would want people to watch it this way so they could take advantage of the data.

  • Jeter Meter

    You can sign up for Yankees in-market streaming, but I don’t know if it works on the iPad.

  • Manimal

    Never realized how spoiled i am to have an ipad and iphone and mlb.tv and be out of the yankees blackout area haha. Displaced yankees fan FTW

    • Levi

      Ditto that. The only Yankees blackouts I ever experience are the 10 or so games they play each year against the Tigers. I pay attention to the rest of the league but rarely watch non-Yankees games. My mlb.tv subscription would be rendered mostly useless if I lived in NY.

      • JAG

        I live in CO, so it’s even better here. The only games I’m blacked out of are Rockies games, and the Yankees almost never play the Rockies.

  • CBean

    I have to travel a lot for work which means I’m often in hotel rooms trying to find the game. The annoying thing is that I have a WiFi device that if I use, I can’t watch the game because my computer then thinks I’m in NY. If I want to watch the game on mlb.tv, I still have to pay for hotel cable.

    • Dale Mohorcic

      You can call MLB.tv and get them to recognize your actual location. It’s a bit of a pain but at least you get your game.

  • Elliot

    For those of us living in the New York Diaspora, slingbox is by far the best option. It lets me watch all of the cable in my house in New Jersey, and gives me not only the YES broadcast, but the pre and postgame as well. Additionally, as its a one time fee, it pays for itself in a few years instead of renewing the mlb.tv package.

  • TopChuckie

    Ed T. got it right. Get a Slingbox, you’re watching your cable, so Yes is happy, and you can watch it anywhere in the world that you can get internet access. Plus you buy the box and you’re done, no monthly fees.

    • Frigidevil

      Slingbox was the best thing I ever got for college. You never know how lucky you are to be able to watch all your team’s games until you can’t.

  • http://www.yankeeanalysts.com/ Steve S.

    BOOOO! Weekday writers suck! Where’s Hannah and Stephen? :)

  • noseeum

    Can’t you just pay $15 for YES’s online service? Maybe you don’t want to pay more or something, but I assume if you buy from YES, there are no blackouts. If there are blackouts, then the product is pretty much worthless. Anyone know?