MLB.com introduced a whole range of changes to its multimedia content for the 2008 season. Some have been popular, some less so.
One of the main sources of discontent among seasoned MLB.tv subscribers has been the loss of the Condensed Games feature. This allowed subscribers to watch nine to ten minutes of highlights from each game. Its appeal was obvious: overseas fans of a specific team could watch a decent amount of action from every one of their team’s games despite not having the time to watch the full contest (which is often impractical). If memory serves me correctly, ‘Condensed Games’ was one of the stated features that would come with the 2008 subscription when details were first announced, but it mysteriously vanished prior to the season starting (and after those who renewed early had already parted with their cash).
From MLB.com’s perspective, the loss of Condensed Games was counter-balanced by their new Daily Rewind Game Recap feature. Well, it was new in a sense. Since the start of the 2006 season, MLB.com had produced a fantastic free Daily Rewind video that contained about two minutes of highlights from every game played each day. Rather than package them into one thirty-minute show as before, this season MLB.com has separated out each game into its own video. This approach has its good and bad points.
On the negative side, it stands to reason that one and a half minutes of highlights (plus the intro and game summary section) do not adequately replace the previous nine or ten that subscribers had previously enjoyed. While the Rewind is free, I know that some subscribers were happy to pay for the longer highlights as part of their subscription package.
Accepting any accusations of laziness, it is also a bit of a hassle having to select each game one by one if you want to watch all of them from a given day. Previously you could start the Daily Rewind and then sit back for the next thirty minutes and enjoy the show. Now you have to sit at the keyboard waiting for each to finish and then select the next in line. This wouldn’t be so bad if there was an easier way to do it. Currently, you select a Rewind from the Watch/Listen page and this takes you to a new page with the video stream embedded in it. Once this is over, you have to select back to the Watch/Listen page and go through the process again and again.
When you select one of the games, there is a ‘Rewind Recap’ video tag that you can click on and it brings up a host of Rewinds to choose from; however for some unknown reason (that defies logic and common sense if you ask me), the title of each video does not include the date of the game. So you cannot simply stay on one page and select each of the games from that particular day one after the other as you don’t necessarily know if the listed Mets-Braves game was from Wednesday or Thursday. The only way you can be sure to cover all of the games is via the Watch/Listen page method. This is definitely something that could be improved upon with a minimal amount of work on MLB.com’s part.
Still, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that being able to watch highlights of every game for free is a pretty good deal (to say the least) and the single game format does have some advantages over the old Daily Rewind show. There is the obvious benefit of the viewer being able to choose which order he/she wants to watch the games in, or to be able to just pick out the main ones they are interested in.
The new format also means that highlights of some games are available much quicker than they used to be. When the Daily Rewind was one overall highlights show, work on finalizing and ultimately publishing it could only really begin after the latest game had been completed. This meant that when Brits were waking up for a day at school or work (or the occasional lecture at uni – once every three weeks or whatever it is nowadays), the highlights were invariably not yet available. If there were any night games on the West coast, you would sometimes have to wait until mid-morning or even lunchtime over here the next day before the Rewind was up. Under the new system, there are always highlights of several games to enjoy while tucking into your breakfast at quarter to seven in the morning and that’s a big bonus.
It’s not a great replacement for the Condensed Games feature, but on balance I like the shift to the new Rewind format. If they could provide a more user-friendly way to watch all of the games from a single day, and if they could sort out the problem of wildly varying sound levels experienced from one Rewind to the next, then so much the better. It gets a B- grade at the moment from me. Promising, but certainly room for improvement.