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Summary:

Major League Baseball has added live video streams of baseball games to its $9.99 iPhone app, starting today. The games can be viewed over Wi-Fi or via the iPhone’s 3G connection — unlike the Sling video-streaming app, which only works over Wi-Fi because of a clause […]

mlbatbatMajor League Baseball has added live video streams of baseball games to its $9.99 iPhone app, starting today. The games can be viewed over Wi-Fi or via the iPhone’s 3G connection — unlike the Sling video-streaming app, which only works over Wi-Fi because of a clause in AT&T’s Terms of Service forbidding it. Because of this, the live video offering is raising hackles among some net neutrality advocates.

The Sling video streaming app, which allows users to stream video from a home set-top box to their iPhone, was forbidden from AT&T’s 3G network via a clause (altered numerous times) that currently bans “redirecting television signals for viewing on personal computers.” An AT&T representative confirmed that the Sling ban is in place over “congestion” concerns. However, all is not right in Mudville.

The concerns over congestion are valid — AT&T’s network needs all the help it can get — but does anyone really think that the MLB app, one of the most popular on the App Store, offering live streaming of baseball games isn’t going to have an effect on the network? AT&T is concerned about users running their Sling apps 24/7 and placing a huge (for one user, at least) drain on the 3G network. This is understandable. However, it seems that AT&T is not concerned with the congestion issues of MLB’s app — which will likely have many more users than Sling would, all watching during the same time period, placing a huge burden on the network. If AT&T is concerned about congestion from Sling, it seems logical that it would also be concerned about congestion from baseball.

Yes, it’s true that Sling could be used constantly and that baseball games are finite in length, but the sheer number of people who use the MLB app — plus the fact that games will be watched by many users simultaneously — suggests to me that the congestion concerns are comparable for both apps and that they should be treated similarly.

AT&T told me that the prohibition is on “the transferring, or slinging, of a TV signal to a PC or smartphone over 3G.” Is this not what the MLB app does as well? It will be the same video that users of MLB’s desktop service get, and functionally the same video that someone watching baseball on cable or satellite would get. There does indeed seem to be a double standard between Sling and Major League Baseball.

  1. Video is an inappropriate use for 3G connectivity. The bandwidth and spectrum are too limited for such a wasteful application.

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    1. Welcome to 2009 !!!

      While the rest of us had to suffer through 10 long, 8 really long long , years from 1999 you seem to have gotten a 10 year discount on this thing we call LIFE !!!!

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    2. I watched a baseball game at lunch today on my iPhone while waiting 30 minutes for my Philly Dilly. I was happy.

      Thanks 3G

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  2. AT&T told me that the prohibition is on “the transferring, or slinging, of a TV signal to a PC or smartphone over 3G.” Is this not what the MLB app does as well?

    In Sling’s case it is the user who is doing the transfer of the actual signal and hence is violating the TOS
    In MLB’s case it is MLB is who is transmitting, not transferring, the signal to the user’s iPhone.

    The same signal may goto the TV viewers, but the iPhone is just another viewing device like any other TV in the world.

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  3. palakadan said “The same signal may goto the TV viewers, but the iPhone is just another viewing device like any other TV in the world”

    You are so right! I am not going to devulge any trade secrets but there will soon be a one stop shop for viewing Live Cable TV on your i-phone, lap top or any other device with a screen. You will be able to sign on and view all your favorites wherever you are in the world. I’ll tell you more after the launch.

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  4. The problem with video over mobile broadband is once its a mass-market application, it will kill 3G and even 4G will have trouble keeping up. While MediaFLO hasn’t taken off, mobile broadcast is still going to be the best approach for live streaming events like sports (rather than using up valuable 3G or even LTE spectrum on a unicast basis).

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    1. Jesse Kopelman Friday, June 19, 2009

      This smacks too much of the argument in favor of LEO sattelite networks replacing terrestrial cellular networks — and we all know how well that worked out. Success is not all about bandwidth efficiency. I’m convinced that a single multipurpose network will always trump a bunch of single purpose networks. MediaFLO is a mistake. That spectrum would be better used for additional data networks.

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      1. Jesse – basic spectrum analysis would show if a hundreds of thousands (or even tens of thousands) of folks in a given market decided to all watch their team play in the world series, the network would, plain and simple, be overloaded. Multicast/broadcast is really the only way to do a live streaming event to that big an audience over the soda-straw that is a mobile network with video. If they all decided to do a major event on 3G the network just wouldn’t be able to handle it. That’s why broadcast is a better solution for live events.

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  9. [...] the bandwidth argument is also bunk. Apple has no problem allowing and prominently featuring MLB video streaming over 3G, yet Skype and SlingPlayer remain crippled. The concerns aren’t totally without merit [...]

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