MLB.TV Whiffs the Start of Baseball Season

Major League Baseball struck out with fans this week with its MLB.TV online video player. The web’s been abuzz about technical difficulties during the first two days of games that shut out subscribers who shell out $20 a month for the service.

Trouble started opening day with the MLB.TV Mosaic application, which delivers the games. Reading through the posts on the official MLB Mosaic blog is like reading through a captain’s log as his ship slowly sinks. [digg=]

Things start off fine, and you can feel the excitement and anticipation:

March 29, 8:19 p.m.

The 2008 MLB.TV Mosaic is almost here!

We’re putting the finishing touches on the new MLB.TV Mosaic for those of you who are premium subscribers (or those considering, you can purchase a subscription by clicking here ), and i’ll again be using the Mosaic blog as a place to provide high level commentary on our new features and addressing general questions/release notes/etc for you all.

Then as the games get under way, things start to go horribly wrong:

March 31, 12:18 p.m.

2008 Installer
Thanks for your continued patience, we’re continuing to work on getting the installer ready for you all.

March 31, 2:22 p.m.

Installer Update
Again, we appreciate your patience, and your frustration. The entire Mosaic team is working through some technology issues related to the rollout of the Mosaic for you all today.

Suddenly, a bright spot:

March 31, 3:54 p.m.

The 2008 Mosaic is now Available
Thanks very much for your patience. With this being MLB.TV’s most anticipated Opening Day ever, we appreciate your frustration. Ultimately we ran into conflicts that were buoyed by an entire suite of new products rolling out simultaneously that didn’t affect themselves with less than the full slate of games being played concurrently.

At this point, customers could have started a drinking game for every time the blog mentioned the word “patience.” But patience would be tested even further as they had to shut ‘er down for more maintenance. A cruel April Fool’s joke? Nope:

April 1, 2008, 6:58 p.m.

Mosaic Update – Temporarily Unavailable
In order to prevent some of the issues that some of you experienced yesterday, we’ve temporarily disabled the Mosaic application this evening, which is why you’re not able to log in right now.

An update came three hours later. Don’t forget that games were being played throughout this whole thing:

April 1, 10:05 p.m.

As you may have seen, we have re-enabled the mosaic after working through the tech issues we were concerned about earlier. It will be running through the rest of the evening, and in normal operation from this point forward.

Huzzah! Success! Oh. Wait. Sa-wing and a miss, batta!

April 2, 12:48 a.m.

Login Issues
We’re aware of the login issues that some of you have experienced, and will be deploying a fix for these prior to games starting tomorrow. We appreciate your understanding in the meantime, and thank you all for your feedback.

Then the Mosaic team starts to get dejected. They had to be tired, they’d been working ’round the clock:

April 2, 12:18 p.m.

Mosaic Update
Here’s the update for today. We’ve rolled out a few changes that will address the login issues that some of you have seen.

Problem solved, right?

Well, as of today, complaints are still being lodged in the forums. I spoke with Neil Selvin, president of Inlet Technologies, which does the encoding that generates the Silverlight stream for the MLB.TV player. He claimed the problems weren’t that widespread and said that 1.7 million streams were served in the first two days. Looking through the forums though, the problems certainly don’t seem isolated. We called an MLB representative to find out more, but haven’t heard back yet.

Maybe the MLB needs to hire the crew that built CBS’s March Madness player.

UPDATE: Matthew Gould, vice president of corporate communications for called me just moments after this story went up. Here’s what he had to say:

“There were a couple glitches on Monday afternoon. But other than that, it went very well,” Gould said. “The way that [MLB.TV] works is that we take the feeds from MLB parks, so we don’t have spring training like the players do. This year was our biggest product rollout, on all different levels. We had one day of spring training to get everything out to production for opening day on Monday. That poses a challenge when working with new technology.”

Gould also said that premium subscribers could still watch a single game, just not access the 6-games-at-once and additional features that Mosaic provides.

At this point, Gould says everything is fixed and people shouldn’t be having problems. If they are, that’s why MLB.TV created the blog. Through it, people can submit issues they are having.

As far as compensation for people who’s service went out? “No final decision’s been made as far as giving something back,” Gould said, “that’s
what the customer service department is for. Hopefully they’ll work through it and fans can enjoy the remaining 2,400 games on the schedule.”