MLB season is upon us, and the cord-cutting trend means more people than ever are looking for ways to watch games outside of their normal cable subscription. There are several ways to catch your favorite team on the diamond this year, and we are here to help you choose the best solution for you.
MLB.tv has a lot to offer avid MLB fans with several subscription levels available, the highest tier being a $110 yearly subscription, with an optional $10 Follow Your Team add-on coming in the near future. They also are making it possible to stream all 2,430 regular season games, but unfortunately, these are not available to everyone. As with many streaming options, the devil is in the details, and if you read closely they make it clear you only get access to out-of-market games.
Because of the contracts the MLB signs with broadcasting networks, your MLB.tv is subject to many blackouts for local teams. MLB.tv is pretty upfront with these blackouts, just here to search by zipcode and see which teams you will have blacked out in your area.
There is also a list of games blacked out nationwide. Check this to make sure your favorite rivalry game doesn’t fall into this category either. These games are blacked out because they are classified as nationally televised games available to everyone. See a general map of team blackout areas below:
Image pulled from Wikipedia
One of the advantages of MLB.tv is the wide range of devices it is available on. They tout up to 400 devices are compatible, including popular options like Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, and Xbox. And with their new streaming capabilities, HD viewing is available to those with fast enough internet speeds.
All-in-all, this means that if you want to catch games for your local team, you are going to need to get a cable subscription (). If you are just an avid MLB fan, or want to make sure you have all of your team’s away games, then MLB.tv may be a good add-on option for you. Would we recommend it as a stand alone streaming option? Probably not right now, but it is a big step forward for streaming in the sporting world. The MLB obviously has an eye towards the future of broadcasting.
If you already have a TV subscription, then you have a few more options for streaming MLB games. Unfortunately, this is only a benefit for when you are on-the-go, and doesn’t allow you the benefit of cutting your cable subscription.
One of these options is Fox Sports Go. If you do a search of MLB games, you will see that Fox is a common network for games to be aired on. This app will get you access to these when you are not able to access your television normally.
If you are lucky and have a friend or family member willing to share their cable network login information, then you could tap into the streaming options on Fox without a cable subscription since many providers are still relatively lax on total number of devices signed in under one account.
Currently, the app is available on Apple, Android, Amazon Fire, and Microsoft. Roku and some other popular streaming devices like Xbox and PS4 are not supported at this time.
Watch ESPN is another streaming channel that requires a network login. If you have a traditional cable subscription and want to watch games on the go, then Watch ESPN is the app for you. Compared to Fox Sports Go, Watch ESPN has more traditional sporting event coverage, as well as, streaming of your favorite ESPN shows like Sports Center.
As with any app that requires a cable subscription login, this is usually best as an add-on service to catch up on MLB games when you aren’t able to be at home. If you have a login to use with Fox Sports Go, you may also be able to use it to access Watch ESPN.
Currently, you can download the app on Amazon Fire, Android Devices, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Windows 8, and Xbox One. Since the app is supported on more devices, it may also be a better option than Fox Sports Go.
Sling TV might not help you connect with Fox or ESPN since it is not a formal cable subscription, but it will let you cut the cord and get access to networks you need to watch the majority of MLB games. Sling TV currently streams ESPN, ESPN 2, and TBS, all of which show MLB games. You won’t be able to tap into Fox or the specialty MLB channels you could get with cable, but you will only have to pay the $20/ month no-commitment subscription fee.
Of all of the streaming solutions we have listed here, Sling TV is your best bet for a standalone solution if you want to stay away from a full cable subscription. MLB.tv is your streaming go-to if you don’t live in the market of your favorite team, and Fox Sports Go and Watch ESPN are perfect add-ons to make sure you catch all of this season’s coverage.
But before you choose a streaming service, make sure your internet connection can handle the influx of data. Start your search now to see what options you have available in your area:
[zipfinder] What should we call TV shows when they’re not on TV? What if they were never on TV, like Netflix’s “House of Cards” or Hulu’s “Deadbeat”? They’re not TV shows, even though they look and feel like them. This is a conundrum the Emmy Awards had to deal with: the presenter of the awards is known as the “Television Academy,” and yet in 2013, the web-only “House of Cards” won the award for “Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series.”
The FCC Steps In
The confusion over what is and isn’t TV is relevant again. According to the FCC, TV channels that broadcast via satellite and cable are known as “multichannel video programming distributors” (MVPD). MVPDs have to play by FCC rules: rights include the ability to negotiate retransmission rights for popular channels. Responsibilities require making certain less-popular channels available and following rules regarding commercial volume.
Currently, MVPD rules don’t apply to any online streaming services, but if the FCC approves a new rule change, they could. Bear in mind the new rule wouldn’t apply to on-demand services like Netflix or Hulu, at least not using their current content model. Instead, it would apply to services that offer subscribers the ability to watch one of multiple live content streams. One example is Ustream, which may not be a household name yet, but with a new FCC ruling, its model might prove more popular.
Because the rule is still open for comments, one question the FCC asks is whether individual streaming services should be able to decide whether they want to be classified as MVPDs and subject to all rights and responsibilities or not. In such a case, each service could decide whether the rights outweighed the responsibilities, but services would have to play by both or neither.
Want TV channels on your phone?
Assume for a moment that the rule passes, and that the MVPD definition expands to include Internet as well as satellite and cable providers. You wouldn’t log on and binge watch a whole season of your favorite show: you’d be watching the same content available on TV at the same time. Potential benefits for viewers could include the ability to eliminate your TV altogether if you prefer to watch on something like an Apple HD Cinema Display. It would also mean the ability to watch live TV anywhere on your mobile device. That ability could make it easier to sports fans to catch games without paying for other streaming services like MLB.TV—which could itself be classified as an MVPD.
Warts and All
It does sound cool, but literally putting TV channels on your computer or phone means taking the bad with the good: commercials, blackout rules for sporting events, and depending on your mobile or home Internet plan, extra data charges. It’s also impossible to know what these online content providers would charge. As with some current cord-cutting services, the price structure might not live up to expectations.
In the Opposing Corners
It’s not surprising to learn that the cable TV industry opposes the proposed change. However, some cable networks, including Disney, Discovery, and AMC, are also against it, as is the aforementioned MLB.TV. Those in favor of the proposal include the broadcast TV industry and some broadcast TV channels, including even those belonging to cable networks opposing the change, such as the Disney-owned ABC.
We don’t know which way the FCC will rule, but recent events show the commission isn’t afraid of change. It reclassified Internet networks as public utilities and implemented net neutrality, both controversial measures, so we wouldn’t be surprised at all if the new MVPD definition changes from proposal to policy.
All Your Bandwidth is Belong to Us
The term “epic” is considerably overused in modern parlance, but if a significant portion of cable and satellite subscribers switched to Internet programming, the bandwidth requirements would indeed be epic. Considering that Netflix and YouTube make up half of all Internet bandwidth, and that people watch 14 times more TV than online video, the implication is obvious: America would need a huge increase in bandwidth, both in terms of individual users and networks as a whole. With the Super Bowl only a few days away, it seemed like a good time to think about how the Internet has altered how we can enjoy the game and the atmosphere surrounding it. The NFL has worked hard to make sure the Super Bowl is more than just a game; they want it to be an experience. And for good and bad, the Internet is now a big part of that experience.
Who Needs a TV?
Sure, the best way to watch the game might be in front of your 80-inch LED flat screen. But let’s say that, for whatever reason, you can’t. In years past, if you couldn’t be in front of a TV, you had to listen to the game on the radio, or hope your friends could tape it for you. On top of that, you had to hope you avoided all mentions of the game until you got a chance to watch it.
That’s no longer the case. If you have a laptop, tablet, smartphone, smart watch, or other Internet-connected device, then you can see the game. NBCSports.com will be streaming the game live, meaning, even if you’re at work, you don’t have to miss any of the action. I’m sure your bosses won’t mind.
As long as you have one of these devices, you’re set, assuming NBC does its part. ESPN announced they were going to stream this year’s Rose Bowl via their WatchESPN app, but things didn’t go as planned. High viewer demand crashed their servers, and kept it down through the first half of the game. Fans were understandably upset, and there will be a lot more fans hoping to watch the Super Bowl, so hopefully the servers are ready.
Advertisers spend millions of dollars creating special ads for the Super Bowl. This game is the one time of year people look forward to watching commercials instead of muting them or fast forwarding through them. So why are so many advertisers spoiling the surprise?
Perhaps my advertising background exposes me to more of the spoilers than the average consumer; ad industry websites are flooded with these spoilers, so if you’d rather see the commercials early, that’s where to look. But other companies create teaser commercials for the game time commercial, and some post the spots on their websites. Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” contest goes so far as to crowdsource commercial concepts, and then allow site visitors to vote on which one will air. No matter which one wins, you’ve already seen it.
Unsurprisingly, there are websites devoted to nothing but collecting Super Bowl commercials. So if you want to be that guy saying, “Oh yeah, this one is funny, watch this one” as each commercial comes on, spoilers are just a quick search away. Your guests will love that.
And Who Doesn’t Love Katy Perry?
Well, a lot of people, probably. In case you hadn’t heard, she’s performing at this year’s halftime show. And if neither she nor the Puppy Bowl is your style, the Internet has a solution for that, too. YouTube is planning its own halftime party, with music, fake commercials, and apparently a guy diving into a pool of cheese. I can’t tell you that will be good, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be different.
No one wants to spend time staring at the oven instead of the game, so pizza is the go-to food for many viewers. If that’s your plan, be aware you’re not alone, as delivery demand goes up 35 percent compared to a typical Sunday. Wait too long, and getting your pizzeria of choice on the phone could be a real challenge.
But who uses a phone to make phone calls anymore? Most of the big national chains have mobile apps just for this purpose. Sure, the app won’t make the pizza cook any faster, or the delivery any quicker, but at least you’ll get your order in when you want to. Even if you’re not into the whole smartphone thing, you can use your desktop or laptop to place your order online. You know, the old fashioned way.
The Internet is Ready for the Game. Are You?
Your Super Bowl experience could be a bigger fail than the Buffalo Bills if you just assume your current Internet connection is ready for game day. If it’s not fast enough, you could once more be asking friends to tape (sorry, DVR) the game, hoping no one spoils it for you. Why take that chance? If your current plan isn’t fast enough, find one that is.
Image by Aaron Landry/Flikr