Movers and shakers in the Internet video sector are typically easy to identify: YouTube, Hulu, iTunes, and Netflix.
A name often overlooked, however, is Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM). The Internet arm of professional baseball is one of the most successful online subscription services--along with the Wall Street Journal and Consumer Reports--and the No. 1 most profitable video-streaming service on the Web.
On Thursday, MLBAM is expected to enable subscribers to watch live Webcasts of pro baseball games on Sony PlayStation 3 video game consoles, the companies announced Wednesday evening.
MLB.TV on the PS3
As part of the partnership with Sony, MLBAM subscribers can watch video at up to 720p resolution and access all the offerings they typically get, such as full game archives, real-time highlights, and condensed games. In collaboration with MLBAM, Sony engineers have done a good job of streamlining the process of moving between games, checking past games, or simply checking scores from around the league.
Each of the games played on a given date are displayed on what looks like separate tile, which lists the two teams competing, the score, records of the starting pitchers, and start time. An MLB.TV subscriber can move through the tiles in a way that's similar to how iTunes users scroll through digital album covers.
If a viewer is watching one game and decides to scan the rest of the schedule, the game on the screen at the time remains partially visible in the background.
For Sony, the deal with baseball represents the first time the PS3 will offer live content over the Internet. For MLBAM, the deal is just the latest effort to offer the service anywhere a person can access the Web, said CEO Bob Bowman.
Baseball now streams games via such devices such as Apple's iPad and iPhone and set-top boxes that stream Web streaming content to the team, which include the Roku Box. Sources told CNET that Microsoft and Bowman have discussed bringing live ballgames to the Xbox.
Even if negotiations go smoothly, however, any agreement will have to wait until after the All-Star game in July. MLBAM agreed to give Sony exclusive console rights until then.
With baseball having built a state-of-the-art Internet video delivery system, cable operators should take note.
Baseball is putting itself in a position to potentially compete with the regional cable operators that broadcast games throughout the country. It's possible that if Internet viewing ever becomes widely adopted, baseball has the technological ability to cut out the middleman (think no more blackouts) and deliver games directly to viewers over the Web.