MLB TV Comes To The Roku: Hands On Demo, With Video
At midnight last night, Roku and MLB publicly announced that baseball fans who have a MLB.TV Premium account can now stream live and on-demand games to the Roku. For those in the Roku developer program, the MLB.TV app showed up a few weeks ago and we've all been eagerly awaiting to try it out. My Roku unit got the upgrade a few hours before it went live (thanks Roku!) and I got to spend a few hours testing out the interface and studying the video quality.
Like everything else on the Roku, the interface is easy to use with the MLB.TV app icon showing up on the home screen alongside Netflix and Amazon. Once you connect your Roku to your MLB.TV account via the computer, you then have the option of picking live games or those on-demand simply be scrolling through the date at the top of the Roku screen. All game match-ups are shown with team logos and when you select a live stream, you have the option of starting the game from the beginning or joining the game live in progress. Just like on the PC, you have the option of selecting the home or away feed and as expected, the same blackout restrictions that apply on the PC apply via the Roku. One thing that doesn't work on the Roku is the audio only stream when you are in a blackout area. For audio only streams, the Roku delivers you a message telling you to access the audio stream via your PC.
As for the video quality, it's really good. On a 50" plasma the quality is impressive and while not clearly as good as the HD broadcast TV signal, that would not be a fair comparison since the Roku stream maxes out at 3Mbps. While I noticed a slight lag at times and very slight pixelation, I would imagine that on a smaller TV, it would look even better. That said, the quality is really very good and I can't see any baseball fan having anything to complain about. The one thing I did notice that is different than watching a movie via Netlfix is that when you fast-forward any on-demand game, you don't get the little screen grabs at the top that shows you where you are in the video. I would imagine that since the screen grabs of a baseball game would look the same no matter what inning the game is in, it would be pretty useless as compared to a movie.
While I've always personally been a fan of MLB's video service, it's something that to date, you've always had to watch on your computer. Being able to move the experience to the TV, which is the whole reason I bought a 50" screen to begin with, really makes the experience that much better. Overall I can't find a single thing wrong with the offering and over time, I imagine the video quality will get even better as MLB continues to encode the games at higher bitrates.
While some have said the Roku box is simply too "dumb" to really be successful, since it can't play games or store content like some of its more expensive competitors, the fact it's still only $99 and does one thing really well is the whole reason why it can succeed.