Compression Conundrum: MLB.tv Almost There, But Not Quite

Posted by Seth in GAMING, GENERAL, INTERNET on 06-21-10    No Comments


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Last week, Blum and I had a little debate over the usefulness of sports broadcast packages delivered via gaming consoles after ESPN announced a partnership with Microsoft to stream ESPN3 content via the Xbox 360.

I thought it was a pretty cool idea, but one of the concerns I voiced turned out to be well-founded.

Over the weekend, Major League Baseball ran a free preview of its MLB.tv package via the PlayStation 3. It was the first chance I’ve had to check out live streaming content over a gaming console, and while I still think this method of content delivery has some promise, there are definite drawbacks to it as well.

The MLB.tv package definitely delivers an HD picture, but something about the image quality wasn’t quite right. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it, but it just didn’t look as good as a true HD TV feed. Blum tells me that what I was noticing was the difference in the amount of signal compression between the feed delivered via the Web and the one delivered through my DirecTV dish. It was still a nice, bright image, and definitely watchable, but just not at the full clarity I’m used to.

On another note, I do think the package had better interactive features than Blum gave it credit for. You can rewind a game to any point, and as you’re rewinding, the line score pops up on the screen and it highlights what inning it is. So on Sunday, I missed the Pirates’ two-run rally in the eighth inning that led to their 5-3 win against Cleveland. I rewound the game until the bottom of the eighth was lit up in the line score and was able to stop it right there and watch what I wanted. There’s also an archive, so you can go back and watch games you missed, which is a nice perk. And that rewind function lets you sift through all those games and quickly find the action you’re looking for. One thing I didn’t see was a box score/stats display. That would be extremely useful.

Overall, I was fairly impressed, though I think the compression issue is something these packages will need to solve in order for them to really gain traction.

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