MLB.TV: The Premium Content You Paid Extra For Is A Bonus That We Don't Have To Provide

According to the customer service at Major League Baseball, the MLB.TV Premium package, which lets customers watch baseball games on their computers at higher bandwidths than the basic package and allows users to watch up to six games at once, is a “bonus.” The rep also claims that the difference between 800k and 1.2Mb video speeds, both of which are available to Premium subscribers, is negligible, and in any case, their product info pages says they’re not obligated to provide the 1.2Mb package. Inside, read why all of this is completely wrong.

Reader Kevin wrote in to let us know that he had been monitoring the MLB.TV support forums after his Premium feeds and Mosaic, the six games at once thing, weren’t working. The basic MLB.TV package, which provides video feeds at 400k, is $80 for the year, and the Premium package, with 800k and 1.2Mb feeds and Mosaic, costs $110 for the year. “Michelle,” a customer service rep from MLB, was around to do damage control, and after one poster asked for a partial refund because the service was so bad, Michelle wrote:

I understand your concern and as I have said before we are working our hardest to make sure that everything works quickly and accurately. Unfortunately I do not have the ability to issue partial refunds and there is no partial refunds that are offered. Your paying for a service that comes with extras you are not paying for the extras themselves. IE the mosaic is a bonus to having the Premium package with us and the ability to watch in 800k or 1.2M is also a bonus. However you can watch in 800k and the picture quality is just as good as the 1.2M. I am very sorry for the inconvenience that this has caused people. Some people are able to watch in the 1.2M while others are not that is due to computer issues with the subscriber not with us.

This is wrong. First, a video feed at 1.2Mb is not the same as one at 800k. This shouldn’t even need explanation beyond simply stating that, generally, 1200 > 800. But Kevin sent us some screenshots that he was able to take while MLB.TV was up. Here’s the 800k feed:
And here’s the 1200k feed; the difference is notable in the score display at the top:
Regarding the “bonus” features that cost more money but weren’t actually a part of the package, a couple users asked for clarification, and Michelle sent the following response:

premium service difference
you are paying for the ability to watch in 800k or 1.2 you are NOT paying for the 1.2 itself. If you look at the differences the differences are MLB.TV=400k
MLB.Premium=800k OR 1.2m

The “differences” that Michelle references is the “Compare Products” page, where potential customers can see whether the Premium package is worth the extra money. Here’s the relevant portion:
To me, the check marks indicate that those features are, you know, included in the package. The table is especially helpful because it leaves blank space in the basic package description to show that the differences between the two are the higher bandwidth feeds and Mosaic. We advised Kevin to try getting in touch with someone else at MLB; their email support (customerservice@website.mlb.com) has actually helped us before, and one would hope that they’re better informed than Michelle.

(Photo: Flying Photog)

Comments

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  1. courtarro says:

    While I certainly agree that a 1200kbps feed will be better than an 800kbps one (all other things equal), those screen shots are not a good measure of the quality difference. The first shot, at 800kbps, shows a very complicated scene with tons of people in the stands, yielding lots of contrast; this is very hard to compress. On the other hand, the 1200kbps shot is very simple, consisting of large areas of the same color, which is very easy to compress. When you look at the top bar to compare the two, consider the amount of bandwidth required to service the whole image, then consider the amount left over to produce the top bar. Apples to oranges, unfortunately.

    That said, MLB advertised 1200kbps and should therefore provide it, regardless of what differences they think we can or can’t detect. The “YouTubing” of the Internet, by which people are trained to accept crappy video quality as the norm, has got to stop.

  2. BStu says:

    Maybe they meant for it to be 1.2K or 800 but it doesn’t say that. Its confusing because it kind of says two things. Once it says up to 1.2K which gives them the weasel room, but those check marks are pretty clear in their intent, I’d say.

    That said, I thought her meaning of “bonus” wasn’t that it was something they were doing out of the goodness of their hearts, but she meant that is a bonus as a Premium subscriber. Not a clear choice of words, but in this context, I don’t think she was meaning bonus like a freebie. She was clearly meaning it as a benefit of premium membership.

  3. Tightlines says:

    If there’s no difference in image quality between 800k and 1.2mb, then why the hell is it even offered?

    Bull. Shit.

  4. G Voll the Mole says:

    The worst is that to get whatever they call 1.2MB, you need some program called Microsoft Silverlight, which still doesn’t work no matter how many times I install, uninstall or reinstall, or if I use Firefox or IE.

    I basically just gave up for a few weeks in the hope that they’ll get whatever bug it is fixed. I know I’m not the only one with this issue.

    At the very least 800k is still an upgrade over the 700k max they offered last year, and it is somewhat noticeable.

  5. as an MLB.TV premium subscriber, I assure you the 1.2mb and the 800K feeds have a quality difference that is far from negligible.

  6. All I know is I pay for the premium and can watch in 1.2 mb. I might be able to watch in 800k, but I’ve never tried, because … why would I?

    However, MLB is notorious for screwing over its fans, so this isn’t a surprise.

  7. howie_in_az says:

    Chargeback, goods not as advertised.

  8. Tightlines says:

    Plus, it specifically says “TV Quality” next to the 1.2MB and not the 800k.

  9. Dools says:

    Also, this year brings advertisements claiming you can “watch mlb.tv in fullscreen!” Last year, you could, but this year, 4:3 broadcasts are horribly displayed, cutting out much of the screen.

  10. thirdbase says:

    In addition to this issue MLB TV is useless on weekends. Every national sports provider(NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, ESPN, SC,) Has rights to the weekend games thereby invoking the blackout rule even if the providor is not broadcasting the game in your viewing area. It’s common to be unable to watch any game online Saturday or Sunday.
    There is also a huge difference between 800k and 1.2meg. at 1.2 you can enjoy the game. At 800k you can’t even see the ball.
    I cancelled and bought the in demand sports package from Comcast. (The lesser of two evils.)

  11. Jim says:

    @G Voll the Mole: I didn’t even attempt to install Silverlight, I could feel the failure before even trying.

    @courtarro: Agreed on the poor choice of screen caps, but it’s a moot point. There’s a definite difference. I did chuckle though when I saw them, I was expecting the same image at different resolutions. “Whoa, there shouldn’t be THAT much difference!”

    I only get Gameday Audio and am quite pleased with it so far.

  12. dunkinbean says:

    Yuck, but not surprising. I tried out the Gameday Audio thing to listen to W.Sox games on my computer without having to turn on my alarm clock’s radio and disturb the other people here. The feed quality is even worse than my radio, stutters, and is almost an entire minute slow of the live broadcast (which is annoying when people yell KONERKOWNED on aim and I have to wait a minute to hear the call). It was nice when I first noticed the commercials were taken out, but at the end of the next inning they were back again and they seem to remove and restore them at random intervals. Seeing more evidence of shitty service from mlb.com seems expected. Is it too much to ask that something I paid 15 bucks for be at least comparable to the free version of the same exact product?

  13. xsmasher says:

    Reader Kevin does not explain what his problem with the 1.2MB streams are.

    As far as I can tell (google MLB.TV Kevin 1.2MB) this is a technical issue which involves Microsoft’s “Silverlight” technology (a plugin similar to flash, used for streaming video.)

    Presumably Kevin is unwilling or unable to install this software, or perhaps it does not work on his computer; but it’s premature to blame MLB without more information.

    If MLB hides the fact that Silverlight is required until after purchase, and then refuses refunds if it doesn’t work on the viewer’s computer, then I say hang them; but I see no proof of that.

    If Kevin is Microsoft Protester and refuses to install the plugin, then he’s on the hook for the $$. Need more info to make that conclusion, though.

  14. Frank Beamer's Goiter says:

    Anyone else get an email from MLB.com today saying they’ve activated my account for two free days of MLB.TV service (including the “Premium”/Superfan more or less garbage)? I did a free trial last year with MLB.TV, but I cancelled and told them it sucked balls. Maybe this is my “gift.”

  15. Matt Sussman says:

    “1200 > 800″

    Someone hasn’t played Hearts in a while.

  16. Jim says:

    @dunkinbean: The commercial thing is a problem at the radio station, not MLB. MLB is just transmitting whatever WSCR is putting out. I listen to the Cubs games and you can usually hear the beginning of WGN’s commercials until they turn that channel volume down, then you just get stadium noise until Pat and Ron come back.

    I get the WGN feed really clearly, so I think again, this might be the station’s problem – I’ve noticed some of their podcasts have a lot of hiss and noise in them too.

  17. BloggyMcBlogBlog says:

    I would say EECB to Bud Selig, but that guy doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground.

  18. jeblis says:

    I got rid of this after getting sick of games that wouldn’t play at any speed without freezing. Also they have crappy auto-renew policy that’s a pain to cancel.

    Extra innings is worth the extra cash.

  19. SpenceMan01 says:

    Between this and the DRM issue last season, there’s no way in hell these clowns will be seeing even a penny from me.

    Also, what’s with the service rep’s grammar? Yuck!

  20. adambadam says:

    For all the naysayers, I find Silverlight to work quite well on both my Windows PC and my Mac. It is simply Microsoft’s competition to Flash, and has its own advantages and disadvantages, being too craptastic to use is not one of them for me.

  21. superbryant says:

    I was thinking about getting this yesterday but….
    “In addition to this issue MLB TV is useless on weekends. Every national sports provider(NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, ESPN, SC,) Has rights to the weekend games thereby invoking the blackout rule even if the provider is not broadcasting the game in your viewing area.”
    This is a big deal I did not realize this. I live in VA and wanna see Phillies games but this seems not worth it anymore thanks dudes.

  22. indiegeek says:

    Silverlight works just fine, but I have to call MLB customer service about four times a week to remind them that my San Jose zip code is not, in fact, in Boston and would they please get rid of the damn blackout.

  23. Jim says:

    @superbryant88: I don’t think the blackout policy affects archived games though, you could catch up the next day. I’ve been listening to a lot of games the following morning because I don’t stay up late enough to finish many of them.

  24. blackmage439 says:

    What an ignorant, uneducated bitch…

    Pretend you have a health care plan that offers two tiers of coverage. One tier caps out at $50,000 annually, and the other caps out at $75,000. What this woman is saying is that the company wouldn’t have to pay a $60,000 claim on your tier 2 insurance because those extra $25,000 of coverage are extras that you’re not actually paying for. What. The. F&%#?!

  25. Alex Chasick says:

    @xsmasher: Those are different Kevins. His email was basically just alerting us to the forum discussion, and didn’t mention Silverlight. But allow me to: Silverlight sucks. I’ve tried running it on PCs and my Mac, and it seems to be equally bad. It was annoying that it took several installs to get it to actually work, but more annoying is that the controls still don’t work (I can’t pause games, despite the large pause button). I assume it’s MLB itself, and not Silverlight, but to whoever decided it would be a good idea to have a huge border of blank space around the games when you’re watching in fullscreen mode: I hate you. That being said, I’ve found that setting Quicktime to open videos in separate players, instead of in the browser, usually gets me a bigger picture.

  26. trujunglist says:

    I don’t see why they’d allow you see the 1.2mb stream demo if they can’t necessarily provide it. They should just have “high quality stream” and “low quality stream” and be done with it. I’m not sure why, if you can handle the 1.2mb stream, you would even bother with the 800k stream. It’s not like the extra 400k is going to be a dealbreaker for most people if they have to wait an extra second for it to buffer..
    but then again, whatever, baseball fucking blows.

  27. ShrivalliCoeus says:

    Comment on MLB.TV: The Premium Content You Paid Extra For Is A Bonus That We Don’t Have To Provide I have been a subscriber of the internet version of the MLB package for the
    last three years. Last year I upgraded to the premium service for the
    promise of better resolution feeds but did not notice much difference. This
    year I watch the games from two PCs within my house. From the first PC I
    have been unable to get the 1.2M feeds to run even after several tries at
    loading and reloaded Silverlight/NexDef. Therefore I watch the games at the
    800K feeds from that computer. From the other PC I am able to watch the 1.2M
    feeds and I can tell you they are much better quality than the 800K feeds.

    I can sympathize with MLB since it is obvious from my situation that the
    problem with watching the higher feed must be related to the configuration
    of my PC and therefore they would not want to get bogged down running
    technical support for those types of issues. That type of technical support
    I’m sure would crush their $120/year business model. What I don’t understand
    is why they would not offer a refund if you were unable to make the higher
    bandwidth feeds work on your particular computer. It should be as simple as
    try it and if it works great, if not then here is your money back.

    Henry Brummitt

  28. new_commentator says:

    I don’t understand this bonus business. You pay $80 for the Basic and $110 for the Premium. If you don’t necessarily get the Mosaic or the 1200, then what are you paying $30 more for? Just the 800? MLB.com has a history of doing ridiculous stuff like this. Remember when they switched how games were stored, and any games that you had previously purchased were no longer available? This industry succeeds in spite of all the stupid things they do.

  29. The Commenter Formerly Known as StartingAces says:

    Nibbles followed me to the consumerist.

    To elaborate on program issues people are having: For one to get this working on a PC for up to 1.2m streams, you need to have Microsoft Silverlight installed (which does not always play nice) and an always-on process called MLB NexDef. NexDef did not work well on my Vista machine until I canned a macro program I always run (annoying).

    To run on Mac, one needs to install Flip4Mac – which allows Macs to catch wmv feeds. This worked swimmingly for me on a fresh install of Leopard, but not everyone seems to share this experience.

    In both of these cases, you also need to run the mosaic program itself (to watch 6 games at once, or make watching 1 game faster to get into/easier). This program also has caused issues for people.

    Any issues with either of these are superseded by overall system issues… during the first few days of the season most people could not connect or stay connected to any games. Many people have blackout authentication issues which disable some or all games. I still occasionally get booted for no reason and cannot connect for the rest of the night. This is pretty maddening for paying customers like me who like to gorge on baseball and follow our fantasy teams.

    The first week was essentially a beta period, check those dates on the Ensequence board. It’s like that almost every year.

  30. The Commenter Formerly Known as StartingAces says:

    This is also beside the fact that when I purchased my year of MLB.TV, Condensed games were advertised as a feature. This was taken away shortly before launch.

    A CS rep for MLB.com told someone who was complaining about this that condensed games were coming back very soon. At this point it seems like he was just getting someone to stop complaining – no sign of those on the horizon.

    Condensed games were 10-minute recaps of entire games from the night before. Awesome feature, as I would watch a game or two while getting ready for work last year. Another separate MLB.TV bummer.

  31. mikelotus says:

    we use it on xp with no problems. works great, great picture, can do 6 games at a time, etc. so why are others having problems? and what the hell is silverlight?

  32. axiomatic says:

    “The rep also claims that the difference between 800k and 1.2Mb video speeds, both of which are available to Premium subscribers, is negligible, and in any case, their product info pages says they’re not obligated to provide the 1.2Mb package.”

    My version:
    The rep also claims that the difference between non-steroid players and steroid players, both of which are available to Premium subscribers, is negligible, and in any case, the league says they’re not obligated to provide the non-steroid players.

  33. meske says:

    I had mlb.tv years ago when it was first coming up. Constantly had problems watching games near the end of the season – choppy, down, whatever. I called for a partial due to quality issues, and nada.
    I understand that it’s a service, and vid over the net was relatively new (at least in that volume) back then, but at the end of the day, you’re paying for that said service, and they are obligated to provide it for you, or compensate for their shortcomings.
    Hell – even comcast will give a partial refund for downtime!

  34. BigElectricCat says:

    Michelle = liar

  35. The Commenter Formerly Known as StartingAces says:

    Extra Innings doesn’t give you 6 games at once! Plus no HD (800k mlb.tv feed looks better on a 32″ tv)… and it’s $30 more than premium.

  36. ManPurse says:

    Jesus, Jospeh and Mary why is Michelle in charge of writing to people when she has such a tenuous grasp on grammar and punctuation. It’s embarrassing.

    What are we turning out of our schools today!?

  37. ManPurse says:

    @ManPurse: I mean …”grasp on grammar and punctuation?” (Ha Ha… Oops)

  38. firefoxx66 says:

    If there’s no difference between 1200 and 800, then I guess there’s no difference between 800 and 400…. so exactly what are you paying for with the premium package?

    Makes it pretty obvious that those aren’t ‘bonuses’.

  39. skylog says:

    @superbryant88 there is a blackout for all saturday afternoon games. this is due to mlb and fox. if you want to watch the phillies and they play saturday night, you will be able to. also, you would be able to watch sunday, perhaps not though if the game was on espn sunday night (i can’t remember).

  40. skylog says:

    speaking from experience the past 3 seasons, i think this season is far and away the best. i installed silverlight and run the ‘next def plug in’ they suggest and i have zero issues running the 1.2 feeds.

    i run the games and search around on the web and have no skipping / delay / problems. they look great on my monitor or when i watch the feed on my tv.

    my only issue from time to time is with the feed they are receiving. if the feed is not ‘hd’ and letterboxed it does appear a little smaller or just a bit off. this is truly only a problem for me if i am actually at my desk sitting right in front of the monitor.

  41. maztec says:

    Maybe I am dense, but it does say “up to 1.2M” That is not a guarantee that you will have it at 1.2 . . .

  42. RaleighCrassipes says:

    Comment I didn’t see anyone else mention it, but if you look you will see the weasel
    words “up to” in both the video speed and the number of games in the
    “mosaic” section. That gives them the out they need so when you don’t get
    the full amount, all they have to do is point to that. It’s just like the
    “best possible” speed for your internet connection.

  43. CurlyW says:

    MLB.com has awful customer service. They still have not replaced my digital downloads – despite their letter claiming to offer to do so – and have given me nothing but the runaround.

    I’ve emailed them seven times.

    Idiots.

  44. predatorgsr says:

    My biggest complaint about the service is the fact that you can only watch 1.2mb quality live. Archived games are only available in 400k/800k. The whole point of watching games online for me is that they are on demand, so I can watch them when I get home from work at my convenience. The other complaint is the blank ad spaces you constantly have to get up and click through.

    That said, MLB.tv is still a pretty good deal, I got it so I could watch every Red Sox game, and the 800k archived games look decent on a 24″ monitor watching from my bed. Doesn’t have the pop of HDTV quality, but still pretty good.

  45. NorthBeach says:

    I use this service and agree with Skylog that this year it has improved remarkably…with one caveat. For some reason, in the first few games of the year (this year and the prior two as well) the service is just crap. It keeps halting, it keeps stalling…but that seems to alleviate after the first week.

    As for customer service, they were very helpful when I did the “doofus-two-push” and purchased the service twice–and immediately refunded my money for the second purchase.

    So, for my money, the service is pretty good and I can happily watch my (not quite yet) mighty Cleveland Indians at home and on the road. Its still evolving, but with Gameday and all the other extras, its well worth money considering what you save if you had to go to your local and get them to turn on the game and then sit for the next 3 hours drinking $5 pints.

  46. TribeCalledVest says:

    mlb.tv is crazy, though I continue to be a subscriber. (To what extent this is due to its default auto-renew feature, I’m not sure. Those things should not be allowed as a default!)

    My service currently does not work, and after countless emails, seven calls to customer service, and five actual escalations, I’ve yet to be contacted. (Rather, let me temper that by saying that one additional time I called, I was asked for contact info and told I’d hear back. I did — customer service called to say they were really busy and would call within 24 hours. It’s been over 24 games!)

    Back to the point of the post, though, it’s necessary to point out that the Mosaic program was supposed to be in place two seasons ago. It was promised as a part of the (then) only subscription. Only, it never was released. The season passed. At some point in the next season, Mosaic finally came out, but then it was premium content that you had to pay extra for. Now, I guess it’s premium content that you may not get even if you pay extra.

    Was Major League Baseball nominated for the Worst Company in America survey?

  47. NYCHK says:

    Why not email the CEO directly – he loves responding to this kind of thing:
    Bob Bowman
    bbowman@mlb.com

    Or, his underling who is 2nd in command and in charge of the Customer Care Department:
    Noah Garden
    ngarden@mlb.com

  48. Mark W. Quinn says:

    MLB.TV is a product that is totaly worthless. With the DRM that is invoked, you cannot watch or follow your home team. This is displayed in the fine print to sucker you in under the BIG BANNER of WATCH ALL THE GAMES. Once you click ok on your purchase, you are done. There are no refunds with out one serious fight.

    It took me 6 months and writing every media outlet, my home teams front office and God himself before they issued me a refund.

    The greed and contemp that MLB has for its fans nows no bounds. Despite the teams providing a good experience in the parks, the head office is just a total example of poor customers service.

    I would recommend a boycott of the product until they bring a product that has the fan’s interest included within the product…not just your bank account.