Thanks to Bud Selig baseball fans living outside of their team’s market who don’t have a satellite dish with a subscription to DirectTV cannot purchase MLB Extra Innings and therefore cannot watch their team.
I am one such fan.
To satisfy my need to watch every single baseball game whenever I want I have succumbed to the lure of MLB.tv. Really I had no choice. I’m not about to drop however much money it’ll cost to get a satellite dish installed on the apartment I am leasing for a few more months — and frankly I doubt doing so is even a possibility — and the local bars won’t let me lounge around in my underwear and are unwilling to give me control of the remote, thus denying me two of the three most important factors for any pleasurable baseball viewing experience. (Beer is the other factor. Score one for the bars on beer.) As far as I can tell there are countless other people going through the same ordeal I am, and my guess is that many of those people are not so impulsive as to immediately sign up for a service that does not offer the same picture quality as a television with HD and that comes with all the inherent risks of instability the Internets offer — and for roughly the same price as MLB Extra Innings! So for those people — you might be one of them, or maybe you know someone who is — I am going to provide a brief review of my brief experience with MLB.tv Mosaic, the newest offering for MLB.tv Premium subscribers ($20/month or $120/season).
MLB.tv Mosaic is an application (download required) that enables viewers to stream up to six games at once.
Why anyone would want to stream six baseball games at one time is beyond me, especially since the size of the screen for each game is a fraction of what it normally is in other MLB.tv viewing modes. If there are more than six games being played at once (or if you want to stream multiple archived games) you can control which six are displayed. You can also control the window in which each game appears, which affords you a nice degree of control over the action. You can also chose to stream fewer than six games. To keep things simple you get the audio feed for only one game at a time, which you can select at will.
The six-games-at-once feature is a bit over the top. Paying attention to so many games at once is practically impossible, especially when the action is presented on such a tiny screen. There are two other available display layouts, however (and too more that are coming soon), and I find both of these preferable to the six-shooter mode.
The first two the two other modes I’ll call the Player Tracker Mode (PTM).
In PTM you can stream up to four games at once and the games are determined by a pre-defined list of players who are automatically “tracked” for you. Say you have Albert Pujols on your player tracker list. Whenever Pujols comes to bat you’ll automatically be connected to the stream of that game. You can have up to 30 players in your queue. This is a nice complimentary feature to the six-shooter mode since most people don’t need to watch so many games at once and when they do flip among that many games it’s probably because they want to watch a particular player bat.
I have no idea how well this feature works since I can’t get it to work for me. In theory it’s a nice idea, especially for those with fantasy baseball teams who don’t want the responsibility of actually tracking games to see their players bat. Since the only people I could imagine being willing to watch baseball on a computer are invested fans of the game, my guess is that a lot of the people with MLB.tv subscriptions play fantasy baseball. So this feature is right in the wheelhouse for MLB.tv subscribers. If only it worked. Monday was the first day MLB.tv Mosaic was available and so far there have been a lot of reported problems with the system that are preventing from some of the features from working properly. The player tracker is one such feature. The MLB.tv guys say that everything will be straightened out in time for the games Tuesday, but that might just be wishful thinking since those proclamations are coming via the MLB.tv blog and not from official MLB media releases.
The third available viewing mode is the single game mode.
Right now the best quality video is available through this mode. As a viewer you have the option of streaming the game on the full screen, and if you have the proper cables you can hook up your computer to a television and watch the game that way. The literature says that the quality of the image on the television should be equal to standard definition on televisions up to 36 inches across. I have not tested the validity of this claim, but if it’s true then this is a nice feature. I know for Mac users that if you hook up MLB.tv Mosaic to your television you can then use your Apple remote. I’m not sure if there is a similar system available to PC users. To change games in the single image mode you can drag a game from the game listing roster that sits atop the game window and, after a few seconds of buffering, it will start playing. Next to the game window you can view a live box score.
On the bottom of Mosaic runs an alert bar that informs you who’s batting or on deck for the games being played. This feature is always running and is a nice way to keep track of what’s happening in other games, especially when you are in single game mode.
There is a preferences button, but there is only one preference you can control and that’s whether or not the game listings include the runs for each team. Why you wouldn’t be interested in knowing the scores of the other games — why the default setting is to not display the scores — is confusing. The are circumstances under which I could imagine not wanting to know the outcome of another game, but with Mosaic you are given an all-or-nothing option. You can’t selectively prohibit game scores from being displayed for single games. And when you switch to six-shooter mode the game score for each game in a window is automatically displayed, which kind of defeats the purpose of hiding the scores from the game listings. In order to not see the score of a game requires a fair amount of work and dedication. The current preference doesn’t do much. Needless to say, for people who like a high degree of control over their applications Mosaic lacks in how it can be altered to suit one’s preferences.
That said, you can control the quality of the stream through Mosaic without having to open any other windows. There is a quality icon near the preferences button. This is a smart way to implement this feature since loading another window might slow down Mosaic, and if you are switching to a lower quality level because your internet connection is slow you certainly don’t want to load windows. If you plan on installing Mosaic on a computer that will make use of multiple internet connection speeds, like if you have a laptop and the internet at work is slower than your home connection (not that you’d be watching baseball at work), then I would imagine the quality icon would be much appreciated. Oh, and if you happen to be watching a game while at work there is a Boss button that switches over to a silly window designed to look like a Word document that proclaims how great your boss is.
There are system requirements for Mosaic but they don’t seem too stringent. I use a Mac so I’m unfamiliar with some of the technical requirements for you PC users, but as far as I can tell all that you need to run MLB.tv Mosaic is a decent computer with a reasonably fast internet connection. You can find the system requirements for you computer here.
The minimum speed required to run MLB.tv Mosaic is 768 Kbps, but this is not exactly true. First, it’s just a recommended requirement. Second, there is some confusion over whether it’s 786 Kbps or 786 kbps. The website has both listed — and as you can imagine there is quite a difference between the two. You can run Mosaic on a connection slower than 786 Kbps (which is quite a fast connection). My internet connection is running at just the bare minimum (786 Kbps) but I have used MLB.tv Mosaic on a computer whose internet connection was running lower than 700 Kbps, or below the recommended level. The image stream in the single game mode took about 10 seconds to load, but once it did the image quality was decent, the window was sufficiently large, and there were no buffering problems. If you don’t know how fast your internet connection is you can test it for free here.
As the bugs are worked out of Mosaic I will provide updates should this post generate any interest.
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