Baseball's New MLB.TV Player Launches, Looks Good


Updated. It’s barely 5 a.m. in the U.S., but the World Baseball Classic is kicking off in Tokyo, where the Japan team is playing China at the Tokyo Dome. It’s also a big morning for Major League Baseball’s Internet team: It’s launching its new MLB.TV Web video player in beta for the first time.

We’ve been tuned into the live video using the new player for about 45 minutes, and so far, it looks good. The biggest technical change: The new player uses Adobe’s (ADBE) Flash for video; the old one used Microsoft’s (MSFT) Silverlight. MLB has also swapped out a large portion of its back-end.

MLB still hasn’t turned on many of the new player’s features — hi-def streams, DVR, and multi-game view — but the video quality is a big improvement already. Sharpness and smoothness, specifically, are much improved. On our few-year-old Mac mini, at least, it’s much more like watching the game on a widescreen TV than the choppy old player.

We’re experiencing a few kinks — sometimes, the video twitches between very sharp and a bit blurry for a split-second. And for a few minutes, the video stream stopped working completely. But we assume these glitches will be worked out — that’s what beta testing is for.

So: No test of many of the new features yet. And we still don’t know if the new player’s back-end will be able to handle the Opening Day rush — we doubt many people in the U.S., at least, are up watching this game. But so far, it looks good.

Update: MLB will be using the new player again Friday morning for the 4:30 a.m. ET World Baseball Classic game. Check it out if you’re awake (and a MLB.TV subscriber).

About 50 staffers got to work very early this morning — before 4 a.m. — to make sure the launch went smoothly. They tell me that they’ll be using a slightly different Flash video setup tomorrow to fix the video “twitches” I noted today. And the few minutes when the video stream stopped working was a specific, one-time problem on their end that won’t happen again — they hit the equivalent of the “mute” button for video by accident.

They served up about 1,400 streams of today’s game. Not nearly the traffic they’ll have on opening day, but not bad for a 4:30 a.m. game.

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