MLB.tv – the 2009 Season experience

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

I’ve been a customer of MLB.tv for three years now. And every single year, a new adventure is born.

  • The first year, they were using Windows Media streams. It worked pretty well, both in Windows and Linux. Unfortunately, I had a lot of issues losing the connection (especially near the end of the game) and often had trouble reconnecting. I know the problem was on their side; their servers were just getting hammered.
  • The second year, MLB moved to Silverlight (with the Windows Media streams as backup). This was actually much better (at least, after the initial issues were fixed). The video quality was better in Silverlight and I don’t think I lost the connection ever. And I could still use the WM streams in Linux. Unfortunately, they started showing really annoying commercials between innings — they were overly loud and repetitive (I often saw the same commercial multiple times during the same inning break).Another great new feature was introduced in September: MLB.tv offered both home and away feeds. So I could finally watch YES for away games. Woot!
  • This year, MLB switched to Flash. I was hopeful that this would be a good thing, as it would remove the OS dependency (flash works nearly everywhere). The NexDef client may not work in Linux but the game would still be viewable. The commercials during the inning breaks are the same ad for MLB.tv Premium (which I already have!) but at least they are silent! 🙂

Initially, I never got the high-def (NexDef) feeds to work; going to fullscreen meant choppy video and audio, regardless of the quality level that I chose. However, the non-NexDef feed worked quite well and didn’t look that bad on my 19″ widescreen television.

I recently built a new computer and (shock surprise!) NexDef works nearly-flawlessly on it, even in fullscreen. There have been exceptions: some nights MLB has problems across the board (all games have issues) and some nights there are problems with individual game feeds (like last night’s YES feed — I had to watch the game on NESN). But on the whole, it has worked pretty well for me on the new machine.

That leads me to believe that MLB’s suggested system requirements is not correct for NexDef fullscreen. I think you need a pretty beefy machine (with a decent video card) to get NexDef to work correctly.

I will say this: when NexDef works, the quality is amazing! It looks much better than SD programs from Comcast and rivals the HD cable signals.

Once major complaint, and this is about Flash and not MLB: if you watch a flash video fullscreen, clicking on the desktop (I have triple-monitors now) causes Flash to lose the fullscreen. There is a fix for it, though, so I’m quite happy now!

At least, I will be when they get the YES feed fixed! 🙂

Good service: MLB?

MLB’s Customer Service is notoriously bad; mlbsupport.com has a lot of people complaining about overbilling, nobody answering their calls, etc.

I have to change my mlb.com account for various reasons so I’ve had to call them twice (once in late fall, once last Monday). So far, I’ve got nothing to say about MLB Support except good things. My call was answered immediately by a really nice lady named Melissa (with a great southern accent — made me miss home!) and she was very helpful on fixing my problem. I still need to call again and verify the old account has been deleted, but I do not dread that phone call.

With all of the negative complaints out there, I feel it’s important for me to complement MLB Support. Time will tell if my problem is completely resolved, but so far they’ve treated me well. 🙂

In other MLB.com news, the new season starts today (woohoo!) but I’m not sure MLB.TV is ready. They’ve moved to a new Flash-based viewer (should now work in Linux!) but the video is very very choppy. There are a ton of people complaining about it on mlbsupport.com/forum and I’m having the same problems. They’re claiming it’s a problem with our computer not meeting the required specififications (mine does and then some) or a problem with our bandwidth (not! I’m getting 10MB down most times). The problem has something to do with their NextDef plugin. I do believe they are looking into the problem, but because of these issues, I’ll be paying month to month in case they do not get it fixed. I was planning on paying for the whole year up front, but I don’t want to spend $109 on a product that simply isn’t working.

I am hopeful, however; earlier betas worked quite well for me and the picture was excellent. Here’s to hoping they get it resolved soon.

It begins!

Today’s the first spring training game! Woot!

Unfortunately, MLB.tv isn’t carrying it and there is no audio feeds so I won’t see it. But tomorrow’s game will be on MLB.tv! 🙂