Game Over for Streaming TV
Illustration by Ian Mitchell.
Streaming video is the latest, coolest thing, but still no match for a full-size, high-definition TV.
It’s early in the baseball season, but I have a lot on my plate. My World Champion Cardinals are going to be the target of every team—and they need me there rooting them on. The trouble is, I live in New York, and they play half their schedule in St. Louis. That makes me an out-of-market fan.
In the past, I’ve fed my baseball appetite with a combination of pricey Extra Innings TV programming from satellite and cable TV providers, in addition to some jerry-rigged electronics.
A few years ago, I paid DirecTV an arm and a leg to receive 100-plus Cards’ games. When my trees grew too tall, I shifted to cable for its equally steep Major League Baseball package. I even took the games out to the deck so I could enjoy baseball the way it was meant to be experienced: outdoors. One year a Sharp wireless TV brought in the feed; the next year my enabler was a Belkin wireless TV transmission system.
This year, things took a twist while America’s pastime renewed its commitment to capitalism. In March, it looked as if only DirecTV would be offering Major League Baseball Extra Innings. I seethed over the exclusive package deal cooked up between the baseball and dish people. Then democracy took root, and everybody from John Kerry to me weighed in, protesting the fact that millions of cable TV fans would be locked out of America’s summer tradition. The outrage had some legs. In April, MLB opened the video turnstiles to the rest of us and inked a deal with In Demand, a cable consortium owned by Comcast, Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable. Now just about everybody who pays to watch TV can pay more to see his or her favorite team.
It’s great that sanity prevailed, but it’s a little late for me. Faced with no TV package at all for opening day, I turned to MLB.com and shelled out $119 for the comparable Internet package. The good news is that I’ll get all the games (or be able to listen over Gameday Audio). And when I’m traveling this summer, I can catch the Cards and Yankees on my laptop wherever there’s a broadband connection. The bad news: Watching baseball on an 8-inch window inside a 17-inch computer monitor is absurd. I’m constantly amazed at how we’re lured into paying a lot of money for technology just to get it in a smaller format.
So now I’m stuck with miniature baseball, a picture-in-picture version of big-league play with picture quality that rivals that of VHS tape. And that’s for the $119 premium version (700 kilobits per second transfer speed versus 400 Kbps for the $89 regular version and twice as fast as last year’s feed). I suppose I should be grateful that it’s full-motion video versus the stutter-step type. Go team!
I know streaming video is the latest, coolest thing, but I’ll take full-size, high-definition baseball on a big-screen TV any day. It’s wait ‘til next year for me.
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