MLB.com has announced details of the 2011 MLB.TV subscriptions, which allow baseball fans in the UK to watch and listen online to Spring Training games, all 2,430 regular season games and the postseason.
Brits who subscribed in 2010 will notice that there are few differences compared with last year’s packages. That is perhaps a slight disappointment to fans hoping for some new features, but the price freeze will be welcomed by all.
Once again, there are two ‘video’ options for subscribers to choose from: the standard MLB.TV and MLB.TV Premium.
MLB.TV and MLB.TV Premium
MLB.TV is priced at $99.95 for a year-long subscription, which is £62 at the current conversion rate. For that investment you can watch and listen to every regular season and postseason game live or on demand. The picture quality will depend on your PC and broadband set-up, but a HD quality stream is available if you have the bandwidth to support it. MLB.TV uses “speed detection technology” for optimum performance, adjusting the picture quality if traffic is starting to make the picture buffer. You can also adjust the quality manually.
MLB.TV Premium is priced at $119.95, or £74.50. For the extra twelve pounds you have the option to pick between the home or away video feed, pause or rewind live games, and watch up to four live games at once in the “Quad Mode” feature. The latter is probably the main reason why someone would choose to opt for the more expensive package.
The full range of features available are explained on the promotional page on MLB.com. Some of the useful extras are the alerts that pop up in the media player, showing you highlights from around the Majors and letting you know when one of your fantasy players is coming up to bat in another game. The ‘clickable linescores’ and option to skip to specific at-bats in archived games proved to be a very handy addition to last year’s service and will surely be so again in 2011.
As well as the video feeds, subscriptions to both MLB.TV packages include the Gameday Audio service. This allows you to listen to the home or away radio broadcasts of every single game.
As regularly readers will know, I’m a big fan of Gameday Audio and use it frequently during the season regardless of the fact that I could be watching the game instead. Baseball, like cricket, suits the radio medium perfectly and it’s a great option, particularly if you are following a game while doing something else. If BBC 5 Live Sports Extra’s MLB coverage last year introduced you to radio commentary of baseball, make a point to take advantage of this part of the subscription.
Focusing on the sound of the games does highlight one small, but potentially enjoyable, new feature in the 2011 subscriptions. If you get tired of listening to the TV announcers, and I can think of a few I’d like to avoid, you can switch to the ‘Park’ option and listen to the “ballpark’s natural sounds”. Hopefully it’s more atmospheric than a bit of chatter and someone shouting “hot dogs, get your HOT dogs” every thirty seconds.
The first feature listed on the subscription page is that MLB.TV is “portable to multiple devices”. It’s worth making clear that the MLB.TV subscription alone doesn’t allow you to watch all the MLB.TV games on your iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android Phone. You will need to buy the full MLB.com At Bat 2011 app as well for this functionality.
MLB.com At Bat was the highest grossing iPhone and iPod Touch app last year. That’s partly because, at £9, it is one of the more expensive apps you could buy. One of the reasons it is relatively pricey is that the app includes a subscription to Gameday Audio. The inclusion of the radio feeds helps to make it a great app. The layout is very user-friendly and last year there was one free live MLB.TV game on the At Bat app every day, although understandably during the week this was often a night game so it wasn’t something that Brits could take full advantage of without being awake at one in the morning.
If you’re mainly going to listen to games and have an iPhone or iPod Touch, buying this app might be your best option. It’s just a shame that MLB.TV annual subscribers don’t get a discount on the app as if you want to use it to its full capabilities, you end up paying for the live radio feeds twice.
The answer to your prayers
£62 or £74.50 for the MLB.TV subscriptions isn’t loose change, but you get an incredible amount for the money. If you want to follow your chosen team closely, or if you want to watch as many different teams and games as possible without being at the whim of the selections made by ESPN and their ilk, then an MLB.TV subscription (and/or the At Bat app) is the answer to your prayers.
I’ve subscribed to MLB.TV every season since 2005 and I can’t imagine being without it. I’ve found that even with a good broadband connection, you do occasionally get a bit of buffering on the video feeds; however most of the time it works well and the radio feed option is always there if traffic somewhere along the line is slowing up the video stream every now and then.
Quite simply, if you’ve got the desire and time to follow lots of baseball games, you’ll more than get your money’s worth out of the subscription.