Review: MLB.TV Premium App
Just say no to YES and flip over to the away feed.
For the past several years I’ve been a subscriber to the MLB Extra Innings package through Time Warner Cable, but this year I had the opportunity to check out the MLB.TV Premium app on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles. Priced at US$124.99 for a year, or US$24.99 per month, the service offers a number of features that should appeal to baseball fans.
Cost: With Time Warner charging US$199 (US$179 for “early bird”) this year and DirecTV at US$224, MLB.TV Premium represents a significant value. This is especially true when you factor in the cost of renting a DVR or TiVo service, since MLB.TV automatically records each game.
Options: Probably my favourite feature unique to the Premium service is the ability to watch the home or road feeds. This allows you to hear your favourite team’s perspective rather than being stuck watching whatever feed Extra Innings picks up. And if you want to switch during the game it only takes a few buttons to toggle back and forth in short order. Beyond the multiple feeds, you also have access to radio calls as secondary audio tracks. As a Brewers fan, I love the option of listening to Bob Uecker call a particularly exciting play.
Event Tracking: Another cool aspect when going back to watch games in progress or already completed is that you can skip straight to events via the timeline. There are options to turn specific events on or off as well — so if you only want to know when run-scoring plays occurred that’s all it’ll show; conversely if you want to see when every hit and strikeout took place you can do that, too.
There are some other nice peripheral items as well (like in-game box scores), but I’d classify the trio above as the critical selling points.
Scanning: About the only time I missed Extra Innings was when I wanted to see a previous pitch or relive a moment that just happened. That’s because the smallest amount of time you can fast forward or rewind is 30 seconds, which makes precision next to impossible. Rather than scanning through an inning you’ve got to look at the timeline advance on the bottom, estimate when to hit play and then wait a few moments for the streaming to start again to see whether or not you got it right.
Picture Quality: As you are streaming the signal through a high-speed Internet connection, there are going to be times when the games look really pixilated. And unfortunately, that seems to happen during live feeds much more often than playbacks. When it’s crisp, it definitely looks close to high definition, though if you switch between a PS3 feed and a digital signal of a game on ESPN or Fox you are going to notice the difference.
How much this bothers you will likely be directly tied to what you’re used to. As a Time Warner customer I’ve been watching Brewers games in standard definition for three-plus seasons now, so even blocky pseudo-HD is comparable, if not superior, to that — and when the signal is coming in clean and smooth it’s noticeably better. Conversely, if I’d been consistently watching on DirecTV’s HD feed I might not be as forgiving.
Although it doesn’t offer true high-definition picture, MLB.TV Premium is a loaded package that delivers a lot for an eminently reasonable price. If you’re a baseball fan of an out-of-market club and you have the means to stream through your gaming console, this is a great service to sign up for.