How many times can I pay Major League Baseball?
Four. Four times is the answer.
Let me back up. MLB.TV is a great product. Major League Baseball is by far ahead of the other sports leagues in terms of non-traditional distribution, and their business model is also setting the new standard, which is: you pay for stuff.
How I came to pay MLB four times for the same thing serves as a fine example of how this new world works.
It all started in 1976 when my dad took me to see Mark Fidrych pitch for the Detroit Tigers. Ok, that’s going back a little too far.
I grew up in and around Detroit and Chicago and have a split loyalty between the Tigers and the White Sox. (screw the Cubs) Now living in Los Angeles, I signed up for the MLB audio only service “Gameday” a couple years ago so I could stream radio broadcasts of my teams.
Gameday was $15 for the season and AUTO-RENEWED every year.
That was fine for 2008 and 2009, but as spring of 2010 began and I was surrounding myself with media devices like the iPod Touch, PS/3, Roku, and iPad, pure professional curiousity dictated I experience the audio service, now renamed “At Bat”, on all my various devices and probably upgrade to the video service (MLB.TV) that added live streaming video.
My 2010 At Bat had already auto-renwed, so there’s the first $15.
When I went to download the At Bat iPod Touch app I found the free version did not work with the audio package I already paid for. To get At Bat audio on the iPod Touch, I had to buy the premium app for $15. So that’s two times I’ve paid for the audio.
“They are two separate products,” someone from MLB told me.
And of course, if you try going to the web version on your iPhone browser, it redirects you to a page advertising the app. Nice try buddy. (and the web version requires Flash, which wouldn’t have worked on an Apple device anyway… are you getting the picture?)
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This directly reverses the models that have been more common to this point of digital rights and subscriptions existing “in the cloud” allowing a single paid product to be enjoyed on any device. This is how Netflix and Amazon do it. You subcribe or purchase once and any device you log in to gives you access to the rights that exist everywhere.
But this is the new new media of 2010.
Then I find the same deal is in place for the iPad version of the At Bat app. Unlike many other apps where buying one gets it on both the Pod and the Pad, not so. A third payment of $15 gets me the iPad version.
Finally, I decide I want to “upgrade” my account to include the video. Thankfully, this upgrade does apply to all devices, no need to purchase three separate video subscriptions.
However, there is no “upgrade” path from my initial web only audio ”At Bat” to the full “MLB.TV” which includes video AND AUDIO. I was only able to purchase it at the full price of $100.
Had I not had my original Gameday account on auto-rewew, I would have gained web access to the audio feeds by virutue of my MLB.TV purchase. However I was unable to apply that $15 against the new $100 purchase (I called MLB twice to try, and the very nice people on the phone told me versions of “hmmm, good question… maybe… let me ask… I’ll put in a ticket… It should offer you that option when you purchase… you can cancel your audio and REQUEST a refund, but I can’t guarantee you’ll get it…”)
None of that came to pass, so finally I broke down. My time was worth more than the $15 I stood to recover and I figured I’d get to be indignant about it in a future blog post, so I went ahead and bought the $100 package, my fourth purchase of the right to stream audio from MLB this season.
Annoying as it is, these guys know what they’re doing.
Despite all that, I still ended up missing the controversial Galarraga Perfect Game because I had to go to the dentist.