MLB.TV Review for 2011: Watching Baseball Live Online

| February 25, 2012 | 20 Comments More

The boys of summer have begun Cactus and Grapefruit league play which means MLB.TV subscribers can begin to watch baseball live online. Before you decide whether or not to plunk down your cash on one of the subscription packages, check out our detailed look at what MLB.TV has to offer in 2011.

What is MLB.TV?

For those of you unfamiliar with MLB.TV, its a subscription service that allows users to watch live (& archived) out-of-market games on their computers via the internet. Assuming you have decent internet bandwidth, you’ll get every game in 720p HD.

You can also port your MLB.TV subscription to watch through other devices like iPad, iPhone, Roku, PS3, Apple TV, and Android phones. (Update 4/18/2011 – If you are interested in MLB.tv in conjuncture with any TV connected devices, please see the “Overview” at the end of the post. ) Some of these devices such as the iPad, iPhone, and Android require the separate  purchase of MLB.com At Bat 11 app. We’ll be taking a closer look a some of these devices in separate reviews.

Subscriptions

UPDATE (6/30/2011): Prices for MLB.tv have been reduced to $59.99 for Standard (Basic) and $79.99 for Premium package.

There are two different subscriptions available, Basic and Premium. Basic is $99.95 for the entire year or $19.99 / month and Premium is 119.95 for the year or $24.99 per month. The big differences between Basic and Premium is that with the Premium, you’ll get the DVR type controls, Multi-game view, and the ability to choose which team’s announcer’s to listen to with the broadcast.

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How Does it Work?

Log onto the MLB.com Media Center to find the days available games. Both MLB.TV Subscriptions come with Gameday Audio, so if you’d prefer to just listen to the game you also have that option.

Note: You’ll notice some games aren’t available in the image below. This is because it’s spring training and not every Spring Training game is available.

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To watch a game a game, just click the link…

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…and the MLB.TV viewer will pop up in a separate window. The window is about 800 x 600 pixels with a viewing area of about 800 x 450. You can switch to full screen or “mini view” which gives you a 400 x 300 window.

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One small complaint we had is that you can’t customize the size of the viewing window. If you try to drag the corners of the window to increase the size, the window size increases but the viewing area stays the same. A minor issue for most, but for those with limited screen area that want to multitask on their computer while watching, re-sizing the viewing area to a custom size would be a nice feature.

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Features

When you hover your cursor over the lower part of the viewing area, some DVR-style screen controls will be displayed. These options will only work for the Premium subscribers.

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When you click on “Watching,” any additional broadcast options will be displayed. These features are mainly for Premium subscribers, but in some cases, like the one shown below, you have the option to listening to the Yankees TV broadcasters (YES) or Audio (WCBS) to accompany the video. Only Premium subscribers can choose to listen to home or away broadcasters.

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Commercials? There are none. During commercial breaks, you get pleasant silence along with a graphic like the one below that displays the score and inning.

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Click on “Summary” at the bottom to get play-by-play recap of each batter, plus any pitching and position changes. Click the inning number along the top to jump to that inning’s summary.

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Up to the minute Box Score is also available…

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There is also a built-in Twitter client. Follow tweets about the game or login with your Twitter credentials join the conversation.

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Player Tracker is a cool feature likely to appeal to any fantasy baseball players. You can add members of your fantasy team, or just favorite players, to the Player Tracker by navigating to the players team, and clicking the (+) next to their name.

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When those players make a plate appearance or enter the game, you’ll get a notification message pop-up at the lower left of the screen.

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Plus, you can track players daily stat line. Color codes tell you whether a player is up, on deck, or in the hole.

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Click on Today’s Games or Archive to check scores or to jump to video of another game.

Views (Premium Only)

There is the standard Single View, Single View with Picture in Picture, Split View (2 games at once) and Mosaic View (4 games at once). The Basic package only gets the single view while Premium has access to all 4 views.

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Video Quality

We initially noticed during pre-season that while some games looked great, a couple of games have had less than stellar video quality. MLB.TV explained via a screen pop-up when you log on that most spring training ball parks broadcast in standard def and all games will be in 720p once the regular season starts.

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Archived Games

Approximately 90 minutes after a game is completed it will be archived and available for on demand viewing. Archived games have no blackout restrictions. You can access Archived games from the MLB.com Gamecenter where they will be designated with an “A” icon next to the game.

You can also use previous day or calendar links to navigate to archived games throughout the season.

… or from within the Video player itself.

Blackout Rules

Ok, the blackout rules are far and away the biggest drawback to MLB.TV. I don’t want to veer off into too much of a rant, but these blackout restrictions can be pretty ridiculous in certain areas. If you are thinking of buying MLB.TV to watch certain teams, you really need to check out the MLB.TV blackout restrictions and see which team’s games are blacked out in your region. Don’t assume that just because you live a few hundred miles away from a city that you won’t be blacked out. Pittsburgh is one of 4 teams blacked out in my area even though it is about 250 miles away and they aren’t broadcast on TV where I live. From what I’ve heard, Blue Jays games are blacked out EVERYWHERE in Canada.

You should also know that black outs are determined by your IP Address, not your zip code. You can find out who is blacked in your area out here on mlb.com.

There are no blackouts during Spring Training, but not every game is available. Also, you should note that all post-season games are blacked out in the U.S & territories.

Overview

Blackouts aside, our experience with MLB.TV so far has been excellent. There no question that the die hard baseball fan or fan of an out-of-market team will love MLB.TV. Sure, no blackouts would be ideal, but that isn’t an option and we knew that going into it. The video quality and features are quite good and as a fantasy baseball guy, I love being able to track my players at-bats and statistics right in the video player. Also worth noting is that you can also listen to every game live online with a subscription to MLB.TV. There are no blackout restrictions with the radio broadcasts.

We’ve heard that MLB.TV traditionally has a lot of issues at the start of regular season that seem to get sorted out within the first week. So far this spring we’ve had all positive experiences. We plan on updating this post as needed as we get into the regular season, so we’ll bring any pertinent updates as we experience more of MLB.TV.

Update 4/18/2011 – Please note our review of MLB.tv covers watching the games on computer, not any TV connected devices like PS3, Roku, etc. If you are considering purchasing MLB.tv for use with external devices, please consult the MLB.tv support forums before you purchase. (You’ll need to create a MLB.com username & password) There are currently an overwhelming amount of issues with these devices. MLB.tv claims they are working on the issues, but as of this update, they offer no ETA.

Watch MLB online – Click here to Sign up for MLB.tv!


Tags: Baseball, Live Sports Online, MLB

Category: Live Sports Online, MLB, Reviews



  • http://Website Mark

    This article was a huge help. I’ve abandoned cable and need some way to watch baseball — specifically the Jays. The blackout restrictions are brutal, but I’m very glad to hear that there are no blackouts on archived games. I can handle waiting a couple of hours to watch the Jays.

    • http://Website Matt

      GO JAYS! I was wondering how many simultaneous viewers can use this service? Namely I want to be able to watch games with my father who does not live near me. Do we both need our own subscriptions? Is it limited to only one user at a time?

      • http://www.andrewgehman.com/ andrew

        Good question. I would guess that it’s limited to a single IP address, but I haven’t tested it. I am able to log in and watch different game on multiple computers through my home router. The MLB.tv FAQ only notes sharing username and password is strictly prohibited.

  • http://Website Kabari

    Thus far, MLB.tv has been a crappy experience for me. Not sure if it’s MLB or the MLB app (on ps3 and LG tv) but I almost never get any games to work. Right now, for example, of the 7 games currently playing, only one of them works (and it’s on ESPN anyway). The others all ‘cannot connect to mlb server’. This has happened every day this season so far, looking to cancel this subscription.

    • http://www.andrewgehman.com/ andrew

      Kabari – Sorry to hear it. I’d suggest trying it on your computer to see if you still get connection errors. I don’t have a PS3, but so far it’s been great for me in the browser. I’ve watched 5 or 6 games with no issues at all. I did get one error during pre-season when trying to watch through Boxee, but when I tried again later it worked fine.

    • http://Website Tom D

      Here’s my experience with it so far. I have MLB.TV on both an LG TV and a PS3. At first, for about a week, they both worked pretty good. But lately, the LG TV has been awful. It either stutters, or says, “cannot connect to MLB server” or usually just freezes during a game. Both devices are on wireless and not that far from the router. The PS3 is closer but I really don’t think that’s the issue. I also have Netflix on both and it works GREAT on both. I also have VUDU on the TV which streams HD movies and also has a speed test which constantly rates my connection at the highest possible speed on the test. Also, I have no trouble on my wireless laptop which is even farther away from the router than the LG TV. I have an older G router and just to be certain that it wasn’t the range or the speed, I purchased a faster, better range N router and tried it. It did not work any better so I returned the router because my older router has been great.

      At this point I am certain that it’s the app on the LG TV. I’m just hoping that enough people complain so that maybe they’ll do an update to fix it. I didn’t bother to call MLB because I know that they will just blame it either on the distance of my router or the LG app. Also, like I said, it worked great for about a week. I seem to remember an update right before things went wrong?! I know the PS3 is constantly updating the app and it seems to get better and better.

      • http://Website Paulpaz

        Hi, I have the same experience, actually. When my laptop is connected (directly above LG Blu-Ray player) it works fine. But the LG app constantly has to reload. My Comcast cable connection has dl speed of 10-12 MBps which is plenty fast enough. The thing is, the computer will downgrade the signal to low definition when the signal weakenes, but the LG seems to only want to play HD quality (and I can find no setting to select HD or other quality).

        Until LG updates the software to allow it to receive a non-HD picture I think the problems will persist.

  • http://Website BlueDog9900

    Anyone with an LG Blu Ray player trying to watch MLB.tv games is SCREWED. We all receive the “Cannot connect to MLB server” message. It’s a known issue to both MLB.tv and LG, there have been NO offers for restitution. I don’t want to watch the games on my laptop, desktop, or iPad…I subscribed to MLB.tv so that I could watch the games on my 37″ and 47″ Flat Screen TV’s with surround sound. This experience has been TERRIBLE. I want a FULL REFUND of $120 from MLB.tv.

    Disgusted

    • http://Website Mike

      you have to download an update for your blueray player. where your mlbtv is accessed under your online menu of your player. there is a system update you have to download. my samsung was doing the same thing until i did this.

      • Shoe

        Hey Mike,
        I have an LG plasma and blu-ray player, but I use an HDMI cable from my laptop to the t.v.
        The picture and video are actually pretty good.
        Too bad I can’t watch any of my favorite teams games, either home or away, due to their ridiculous blackout restrictions.
        Sucks.

  • http://Website Steve

    MLB TV is not worth the money unless you don’t have any other connection to watch games. Your home team games will always be blacked out, even if they are out of town, when you are in your home area. If you want to watch your team when you are out and about but in your home area you are out of luck. You would be better off with cable or DirecTV and a Slingbox or eyeTV that can send your TV signal to your iPad or iPhone. You can then watch anything you want, not just what MLB wants you to see. You are not going to get an HD pcture when you are n a park using 3G service anyway.

  • http://Website Karen Nogami

    It’s been a terrible experience for me. I have a Roku that I have to re-register through my computer every day, even after re-installing the app on my roku player at the CS suggestion. I also have an LG blu ray player that doesn’t work at all – unable to connect to service. Customer Service was snarky with the remark that he was able to watch all the broadcasts perfectly and it was too bad that I couldn’t. Gee, that made me feel better, right? I can’t get a refund because I signed up in February and wasn’t aware that the service was unwatchable until the season started on Mar 31 which was way past the 5 day refund window. All in all, I’m terribly disappointed. What a waste of $100! and it’s frustrating on top of being a waste. If I wanted to watch the games on my computer, I’d have purchased MLB.COMPUTER, not MLB.TV.

  • http://mlb.tv DaveR

    You should do some investigation on MLB.tv for “supported devices”. There’s a huge breakdown in playback going on for Apple TV, Sony PS3, LG BluRay and TVs, Samsung TV, and more. If you can get into the MLB.TV support forums, you’ll see all the evidence you need. The users are irate, MLB is giving double-talk and delays. Revolt is near.

    • http://www.andrewgehman.com/ andrew

      Thanks for the info. I’ve added an update and link to the MLB.tv forum.

  • http://Website Jared

    Awkward, clunky and slow.

    I’m running “basic” MLB.TV on a very solid Macbook (Snow Leopard) running Firefox 4.0/Adobe Flash 10 (won’t work at all in Safari or Chrome) and a better-than-average DSL connection. What I get is inconsistent video quality, a plugin that crashes regularly (MLB NexDef; a requirement to get full functionality), and a frozen screen at the slightest hint of increased traffic. Certainly not what I expected for a $100 investment.

    The folks that wrote the code for this application could learn a thing or two from the folks at ESPN3, which I watch regularly with none of the problems I have with MLB.TV. In fact, by almost every possible measurement, ESPN3 is a superior product — if only there were more baseball. Oh, and ESPN3 is free.

    This is the first year I’ve purchased MLB.TV and unless there are major improvements by October, it will be the last. Don’t waste your money.

    • http://www.andrewgehman.com/ andrew

      I can’t speak for Snow Leopard, but it works fine on Chrome in Windows.

  • http://Can'timaginesubscribing.... Don

    …until the blackout rules are eased. At least let me watch my team when they’re out of town.

  • http://Website Cheryl

    I tried to view the MLB support fora, and they won’t let you unless you already subscribe (as of 5/15/11). Anyone have experience with Roku? Or using an iPhone?

  • Chrstn Rull

    Are you serious? There are sometimes commercials during the breaks. And you have to watch commercials before video clips and sometimes in accessing gameday features (this is FOR paid subscribers).

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.lieto.1 John Lieto

    What a crappy service. Be prepared for freezing, to have the game suddenly jump back to the beginning, or if you are watching in a delay mode, from where you are to real time, revealingt the score, and then simply going to a grey screen, with no way to get back to the game without a Windows restart. I have used IE 9, Chrome and Mozilla. I have cleared cache – all to no avail.
    With MLBTC celebrating their 10th anniversary of taking our money, you would think they would have had the time to provide a decent working service.