MLB4

Apologies to Ramon and Smith for the title, but I honestly could not think of a better word to express my frustration. While my experience using XBox as a Media Hub this past year has been better than worse, MLB.TV has been nothing short of a nightmare since May. Last season, we had my nephew’s broken screen MacBook plugged in to the 55” Sharp Flat Panel and ran MLB.TV via Safari. It worked ok, but navigating the MacBook sucked and occasionally (maybe every two or three games) we would lose the connection and have to log back in. Speaking of connections, we have BrightHouse with a 10Mbps data plan in the house. I know, not great for HD viewing, but as MLB requires something like a minimum 700Kbps connection, it is well within their limit. And in fact, when I have tested speed from my phone or PC within arm’s distance of the flat screen, I generally get speeds of 8 to 9 Mbps, so nothing wrong with the signal.

After getting my XBox w/Kinect and then hearing that MLB.TV was coming soon, I was truly stoked. When the season started in April, everything was working beautifully. Occasionally, the game would drop to a lower resolution, but that also happened with the MacBook, so no big deal. The important thing was that the game never stopped broadcasting. Then, a few weeks into the baseball season, MLB.TV sent their first update. Everything turned to crap after that. Immediately after that update, the app would continually respond to sound or movement in the room, displaying popup menus, or going back to the game picker. At first I thought it might be a big mirror mounted on the wall, opposite the Kinect (although games and every other XBox app had no problems seeing or hearing me), so I covered it with newspaper for a couple weeks. Nope, the problem was not motion, it was sound. Any conversation in the room while the game was on would bring up undesired menus. On every other app, you need to use the keyword “XBox” but not on MLB.TV. I has this problem with my first Sony-Ericsson Hands Free Car unit 15 years ago and thought this was a problem of the past. Guess not.

Then the pauses and disconnects started, I believe after the next MLB update. Not as a rule, but generally the pauses/disconnects start up around the 7th inning of a game and then just get worse as the game goes along. Sounds like a buffering problem to me. I wish the flat panel screen was made of Herculite (you know, the stuff they use in ice rinks) because I can’t count the number of times I have wanted to throw a bottle, glass or remote at that screen when MLB.TV started spinning that wait cursor, froze or disconnected, usually in the bottom of the 9th, with 2 on base, 2 outs, Yankees behind by 1 and Jeter up to bat. Lately, with no one in the house but me, and no one talking but MichaelK, MLB.TV will bring up the game selector menu, select a game in front or behind the current game, and then open it, all while I am yelling WTF is going on. Almost like there was a ghost in the room. Frustrating when I walk out to the garage fridge for a cold beer and plop back down on the sofa, only to realize that I am now watching an Orioles vs. Red Sox game instead of Yankees vs. Rays.

Now, if this was a problem with all the XBox apps, I would write it off as new technology glitches. But that’s not the case. I watch movies and videos all the time using; Netflix, Crackle, Cinema Now, VuDu, Amazon, YouTube, etc., and while every app has glitched once or twice, generally the experience has been very positive, even while watching HD movies. MLB.TV though is at the far opposition of that satisfaction spectrum. Hard to imagine that they have allowed this to continue for more than five months, without addressing the Kinect interface (programming) problems and the disconnect (programming or server) issues. Recently, MLB. TV has started the low-res thing again, which is a much better alternative to a disconnect, usually recovering within a minute. But all the other problems continue to plague the app. With the playoffs starting, pretty much all of the MLB games will be available on network TV, so I suppose MLB.TV is off the hook for the next six months. I do hope they take a look at their app as I am not sure I could survive another season without breaking something.

So can anyone else corroborate my experience. Have you ever used MLB.TV on XBox? What has your experience been like? Am I all alone?

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