MLB.com today announced details of the 2013 MLB.TV subscriptions that allow baseball fans around the world to watch and listen to hundreds of baseball games, live and on-demand.
For those of you that subscribed in 2012, the new packages can be described simply as being similar products at similar prices.
One again, the video options are split into a standard MLB.TV subscription and an MLB Premium subscription.
The standard MLB.TV subscription stays at the 2012 price of $110, Â£70 at current conversion rate, and offers HD video and audio (home and away radio commentary).
The MLB.TV Premium subscription has gone up by $5 on 2012 so that it now costs $130, or approximately Â£83. Paying extra for the Premium package adds a â€˜freeâ€™ subscription to the MLB At Bat app (usually around Â£9-10) to the standard MLB.TV offering plus the ability to watch MLB.TV on various other devices (more on that in a moment).
People looking to spend a little less money can opt for the Gameday Audio product that provides the audio (radio) commentary of games alongside pitch-by-pitch graphics for just $20, or Â£13.
Every game for us in the U.K.
For subscribers in the U.K. itâ€™s important to note that we are not subject to any of the blackouts (i.e. specific games being blocked) that fans in North America have to suffer. The annual subscription for us offers all 2,430 regular season games and all of the postseason games live and on-demand.Â There will also be 150 Spring Training games available to watch, plus countless more available to listen to.
There are no details yet as to whether the annual MLB.TV subscription will provide International fans with online access to World Baseball Classic games during March. I suspect that it will, even if different rules may apply for fans Stateside, but we will have to wait for official confirmation.
Itâ€™s all about being connected
There are no obvious new features available with the 2013 subscriptions and thatâ€™s to be expected.
MLB.com has developed their MLB.TV service extensively over the past 6 or 7 years and without undertaking a complete revolution thereâ€™s probably not much more they can add.Â The service provides HD quality video with DVR functionality and an array of different options that present additional info on the screen (stats, videos from other games, fantasy line-up player alerts etc). In other words, there are no glaring omissions, it already does exactly what you want it to do, so no point adding new features for the sake of it.
Where MLB.TV has undergone great advances over the past couple of years is not so much the service but the way it is being accessed.
When I first started using MLB.TV back in 2005 the picture quality was nowhere near as good and the biggest detraction for many, particularly among North American fans who already have access to a fair amount of baseball coverage, was that you could only watch it whilst sitting at your PC.
The landscape has changed dramatically recently thanks to the greater accessibility of affordable quality broadband. Why trudge off to Blockbuster to hire a DVD when you can just buy a LoveFilm or Netflix monthly subscription and stream films over the internet?Â You might not call it positive progress if you were employed by the aforementioned company now in administration, but the move towards online content is now well and truly established and with that has come a growing demand for ways to enjoy that content through TVs and mobile devices.
The ability to enjoy MLB.TV on â€œconnected devicesâ€, as MLB.com likes to call them, is the key area of growth for the product and thatâ€™s where much of the focus is directed in their promotional material for the 2013 subscriptions.
Connected in the U.K?
MLB.com publishes a page on all the connected devices as well as a separate list of which countries where the MLB.TV app will work on different devices for MLB.TV Premium subscribers. Alongside the MLB At Bat App (for iPhone, iPad and select Android phone and devices), MLB.com currently states that people in the U.K. can access MLB.TV via the following:
LG (on ‘select’ LG Blu-Rayâ„¢ Disc Players and Internet-Connected Televisions)
The details also note that U.K. subscribers cannot officially use their MLB.TV subscription via a Playstation 3 or Samsung TVs and Blu-Ray disc players.
Each year people kindly pass on their experiences in the comments section at this website about how they have got on with using the subscription on their devices. Itâ€™s worth checking on the comments here and reading through the details on MLB.com to get an understanding of whether MLB.TV will work on the device that you want it to.
The only one of the above I have experience with is the Roku option. The MLB.TV option for that is explicitly for the U.S., Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom and it works absolutely fine.
Plenty to enjoy
I repeat the same message every year when the MLB.TV subscription details come out, but thatâ€™s because my opinion on this never changes. It is a wonderful luxury to be able to watch and listen to so much baseball live and on-demand, a seemingly basic pleasure that is light-years ahead of only having two live games per week (at 1 a.m.) to look forward to, as most of us had a mere ten years ago.
There are lots of games to watch over the course of the season that take place live during the British evening. I provide weekly guides to these â€˜earlyâ€™ games every week here on this website and my recent annual review (pt 1, pt 2) of the week-day â€˜earlyâ€™ games give a good indication of how much baseball you can enjoy even if you arenâ€™t able to stay up all hours to do so.
The fact that you can watch every game on-demand whenever you like (normally from a few hours after itâ€™s finished) makes the subscription even more useful, particularly as the annual 2013 subscription takes you up to the end of February 2014. The long winter months go that little bit more quickly when you can look back at your favourite games from the previous season.
Even the most expensive MLB.TV Premium subscription is still a relative bargain at Â£83 if you take in plenty of baseball games over the course of the year.
Sign up if you havenâ€™t done so before. Youâ€™ll soon wonder how you ever managed to get through the season without it.