What’s this? It’s a baseball game. It’s a Red Sox game. It’s on my TV. But it’s a Thursday night and they aren’t playing a local team and I don’t have a satellite dish. This is amazing.
Lately I’ve been getting annoyed that I couldn’t watch all but the rarest Red Sox game here on the west coast. I use GameChannel on Yahoo! Sports of course, but’s not nearly the same and way delayed.
I started to conjure up a scheme to rebroadcast games from my parents’ computer in NH over the Internet to me. I had them rummage up an AM radio with a headphone jack they could hook up to the microphone jack on their Mac. My elaborate plan was to leave the radio always on and tuned to WEEI. Then I’d set up Nicecast to encode and broadcast the audio stream out to wherever I was. That would be excellent.
Thankfully Glen alerted me to something better and far less Rube Goldbergian – MLB.TV. It’s Major League Baseball’s live audio/video streaming service. I had heard of it, but I thought was expensive. It’s actually quite reasonable – $15 for a month of unlimited live games or $8 for unlimited audio for the rest of the season. I was going to just get the audio, but the video was too good to pass up.
Just seeing my first game felt great – it’s something I’ve wanted for a long time and before now simply wasn’t possible without getting some sort of satellite service.
The streams are pretty high-quality. 350kbps Windows Media 9 Video. They’re certainly good enough to watch on a computer. It looks like they’re using Akamai to distrubute the streams. While it’s usually pretty clear, some nights I’ve had problems with the video stalling while the audio continued.
The player itself works fine. The video image seems to get stuck sometimes with Firefox, so I usually just play it using IE. The player window is way bigger than it needs to be though and it’s filled with useless stuff. Why not make it small so I can stick the window in the corner of my monitor or add scores and data ala GameChannel in the other half? Considering that the score is barely readable on the small video screen, this would be really handy.
The video player takes more screen real estate than I’d like especially when my laptop screen runs at a maximum of 1024 x 768. Other than that, the video that plays automatically on their home page is extremely annoying; I have to remember to close it as soon as I launch the player.
You can set the video to play in full-screen mode which is pretty nice though it reminds you how much higher resolution computer screens are over televions.
The “live” stream isn’t quite live. It’s about 30 seconds delayed probably just due to technical limitations. I discovered this when my Dad IM’d me about a few plays before they happened for me. From now on I make sure he doesn’t ruin any plays for me. 🙂
One of the strangest things is watching the local commercials. I get pitches for furniture stores and car dealerships in New England. It’s funny to hear the Boston accents again. I also get to hear Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo call the games. Tonight the game is being carried by Fox Sports West and I’m listening to a couple of personality-free sportscasting drones who appear to favor the Angels. Grrr.
To get the full effect, last night I decided to hook it up to my TV. I plugged the S-Video out and component audio out from my laptop into my receiver. It worked beautifully. The only problem was that I had to periodically touch it to keep my screen saver from coming on. Oh, and I lost the use of my laptop.
Still, this is a really promising vision of the future. Any video you want at any time on any internet-connected device. I’ll never be productive, or when watching the Red Sox, emotionally stable again.