Play Ball with MLB.TV

Another season of Major League Baseball (MLB) is upon us and fans of America’s favorite past-time have no shortage of viewing and listening options. And now they have another.

Sony and Major League Baseball are offering an application that’s available for free via the PlayStation Network (PSN) for use on PlayStation 3 home consoles. The MLB.TV application at its current level of service (free) offers live score tracking, game highlights and a calendar displaying the full MLB 2011 season. Not bad for free but what’s the “catch”? Is it littered with advertisements for sport drinks and ballgame tickets in order to offset the cost?

You won’t need a baseball glove for this “catch”. You can instead use your leather wallet as long as you open it wide and hold it in the air just like a glove. Or you can pull out a credit card and sign up for a subscription to MLB.TV. Doing so opens up the PS3 MLB TV app to a full spring blossom. Linking your MLB TV account info with the PS3 app enables the ability to watch and listen to live and completed baseball game coverage spanning the entire 2011 season. Even Spring Training games are included.

But why should fans use this app over other available options? Well that is difficult to answer and varies by many factors. For one, it depends on the user and how much MLB baseball they want to consume. It also depends on their available options for consumption and where they live in comparison to where their favorite team is located.

The MLB.TV app offers full access to HD video and available audio feeds from every baseball game including both home and away coverage. If watching the Chicago Cubs play the Milwaukee Brewers for example, an option exists to switch between the Chicago WGN Channel 9 television coverage and the Milwaukee Fox Sports Network television coverage. Each of the available feeds can be exchanged at any point during a ballgame with a simple press of the Triangle button. Select an available audio feed without even interrupting the ballgame. Even local radio feeds are available! Prefer to listen to Bob Uecker’s radio broadcast of the game? Then select the WTMJ Milwaukee radio feed and voila! Some games have as many as four available audio options (home television, away television, home radio, away radio). Not every game has all options, but for the most part all are included.

Now time for a small catch. Live games have MLB blackout restrictions. This is only applicable when attempting to stream a live broadcast and has no effect on games that have already been completed. What is a blackout and why does that matter with the MLB.TV app? Because some games will not be available for watching until the game is over. Blackouts apply if the game is available locally or if the game is nationally televised. This is probably the most disappointing aspect of the MLB.TV app but it should come as no surprise to those familiar with sporting event blackout rules. Small price to pay.

Speaking of price, an annual subscription to MLB.TV in 2011 (the requirement for a fully blossomed service on the PS3) costs $119.99. Not a bad deal when you consider a full season of MLB from satellite and cable providers costs around $220.00.

How does this service compare with its more expensive cable/satellite offerings with respect to audio and video? I personally found the video to be slightly below quality when compared to cable/satellite provided feeds. Also a slight downgrade when comparing to other HD streams via Netflix and VUDU. Baseball fans looking for the highest quality HD video should look elsewhere. Audio on other hand performs wonderfully. No noticeable difference between game audio through this app or through other means. I actually prefer the audio in this app over other choices considering all of the available listening options (television feeds and radio feeds).

The PS3 MLB app sets itself apart from the competition with its interface and feature set. Obviously having access within the PS3 is convenient but in addition, users can choose to watch the entire game, skip to certain segments or watch highlights. Even better they can choose a combination thereof. Watch the first inning and then forward to a later point in the game. Skip to a specific top or bottom inning. Watch only the highlights that contributed to runs scored. The only issue I encountered with the easy-to-use interface relates to fast forwarding and rewinding. It goes too fast! Skipping a two minute commercial break can sometimes be problematic when forwarding as often times I would end up forwarding too far. Fortunately the option to jump to top/bottom of inning saved me every time. Speaking of which there are no commercials. Where commercials would normally play is a slide show that currently lists car advertisements and could conceivably show any type of advertisement. I like it better than commercials because it’s quiet (no audio). Much less obnoxious. Snap into a Slim Jim!! Ugh.

Overall I’m pleased with my annual subscription and this application. Well worth the price and a wonderful addition to the XMB.

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