Like its iOS brethren, a one-time app purchase gets you audio streaming on any compatible Android phone or tablet. For unlimited video, you have to be a MLB.TV Premium subscriber, and be sure to download the free At Bat Lite app for Android and then log in with your MLB.com account. Only Android users who haven’t subscribed to MLB.TV Premium should download the $15 version, which will also get you one free, pre-selected game a day.
Once set up, the Android version impressed with its speed and response time. Video loaded noticeably faster on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus as opposed to an iPhone 4 or iPad 2, perhaps a couple of seconds saved each time. Switching video feeds on an Android phone is easier than on an iPhone, since a discreet rectangular box pops up from below bottom and doesn’t cover the still-streaming game. However, you don’t get the iPhone’s helpful score ticker along the top of the screen, nor the option for wireless AirPlay functionality. Still, it’s an excellent option for dedicated Android users that compares favorably with the feature-friendly iOS port.
For the most features, watching MLB.TV through your Mac or PC remains the best option. One new highlight is a clickable linescore that allows you to easily go to any hitter’s at-bat from any point in the game. You can also input the names of players on your fantasy teams so that when they do something noteworthy—even in a game you’re not watching—you’ll get an alert bubble that will let you pull up a video highlight. The audio overlay option allows you to substitute radio feeds in lieu of TV announcers. (You can even choose the “natural” ambient sounds from inside the stadium, if you like.) And the split-screen, picture-in-picture, and “quad” views, which allow you to watch two or four games simultaneously, are also almost exclusively available on Mac/PC.
The biggest hangup with using your computer is that’s all Flash-based, so constant streaming is going to mean allocating a chunk of your system memory. Video playback typically isn’t as smooth as on portable devices or consoles. Frequent momentary stutters are the norm, even when viewing through the pop-up window. (If you can sacrifice the screen real estate, watching games in fullscreen is a much nicer experience.)
In the lower-left corner of the pop-up, you get smooth, unobtrusive integration of PITCHf/x data, video highlights that pop up via picture-in-picture, a play-by-play summary, and even a Twitter stream that allows you to post updates. However, your tweet will include mandatory hashtags identifying each team you’re watching, so your character count will be more inhibited than usual.
The mini-video highlights are the slickest feature, though. Click one and the live game audio mutes as a mini-window pops out to play the highlight. If you like, you can even swap their respective placements, so the live action moves to the smaller window.
Even if you just opt for the $20 Gameday Audio plan, the streaming experience is very reliable, as you still get home and away feeds while the free MLB Gameday interface provides real-time updates and stats.
One new Easter egg this year: As you load either the MLB.TV or Gameday Audio pop-up window, the semi-obscured background will be that of the stadium hosting the game you’re loading. It comes up dark and looks as if you’re peering through a dirty screen door, but any fan loading a San Francisco Giants home game will see a wide-angle view of their beloved AT&T Park.
Apple TV’s MLB interface is the same as last year’s. Just sign up for MLB.TV Premium and then log in with your MLB.com account info. From there, the clean Apple TV menu offers access to the day’s full slate of games, updated standings, and video recaps of completed games. It even offers up who the current pitcher and hitter is in each game before you click to watch. The Apple TV costs $99, and there are cheaper streaming options out there with MLB functionality, like the Roku line. The Apple TV remote also remains a clunky and frustrating way to navigate the menus as well as toggle through video. Still, the menu interface is laid out smartly, and the options are fairly extensive for a sub-$100 video streamer. You can also pull up the new clickable linescore feature by pressing down on the remote D-pad during a game, and Apple TV’s iTunes Store integration offers easy access to purchase bundled video packages of historic MLB games straight from the MLB menu.
Of all the platforms I tested, the Sony’s PlayStation3 delivered the cleanest video feed, and the initial setup comes via an activation code that your console provides. Input that into a special URL, and you’re ready to go. The main navigation page is a little busy and a bit cumbersome for those unfamiliar with the PS3 controller, but the HD video is stunning and the clickable linescore can be pulled up and navigated more easily with the PS3 controller than, say, the Apple TV remote. The audio overlay option, which lets you pipe in the radio feed over the TV broadcast, is a welcome option that’s only available here and on PC/Mac.
Best of the rest
MLB.TV on Xbox 360 is new this season and in direct competition with the PS3, although the Xbox 360 does feature split-screen video (an option only available on Mac/PC). On the downside, there’s also no clickable linescore or audio overlay option here yet and video streaming requires an Xbox Live Gold account, which starts at $5 a month. Video streaming on the PS3 does not require any additional cost, beyond your MLB.TV Premium subscription.
There’s also an At Bat 12 app for BlackBerry, as well as a Windows Phone 7 version, which was slated to arrive at the start of the season but was still not available as of Opening Day. Neither option is compatible with MLB.TV Premium, but you do get score updates, radio feeds, and select video highlights.
As for Web-based options, Yahoo Sports offers MLB Full Count, a video player that promises live look-ins of games and in-progress video highlights. It’s not a dedicated option like the other MLB.com offerings outlined above, but it could do when you need a quick fix of baseball action.
[Erik Malinowski is the night editor of Deadspin, a frequent contributor to Wired, and a long-suffering New York Mets fan.]
This story, "Batter up: The best ways to watch baseball on your digital devices" was originally published by TechHive.