MLB to Silverlight: You’re Out!

Major League Baseball announced today that it has selected Adobe’s Flash video platform to deliver its live and on-demand video for the next two years starting in 2009. This is a blow to Microsoft and its Silverlight video technology, which up until now had been powering MLB video.
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The MLB.TV service got off to a rough start this year as the service went on the blink for paying subscribers during the opening two days of the season because of a problem with its Mosaic media player. We don’t know if this issue was Silverlight-related, though the problems didn’t seem to stop MLB.TV from becoming a hit with fans. Major League Baseball Advanced Media Group is responsible for about $450 million in revenues, with half of that coming from paying subscribers to MLB.TV.

From a press announcement about the switch, we were able to learn a few more details about the service:

MLB.com streams live every Major League spring training, regular season and postseason game, more than 2,500 annually, via its out-of-market subscription product, which has seen more than 1.5 million total subscribers since its debut on Opening Day 2003. Since that time, fans have accessed more than 1.8 billion streams of live and on-demand multimedia offerings on MLB.com, representing nearly 200 million hours of participation. By the end of 2008, MLB.com will once again stream nearly 12,000 live video events, including Major League Baseball games and thousands of events for its various business partners.

MLB’s move to Flash is also a bit surprising given the success Silverlight enjoyed during the very high-profile Olympic games. People groused (myself included) about the time-delayed content and installing a plug-in, but the video itself performed quite nicely. Though to be fair, Flash is already installed on more than 98 percent of Internet-connected desktops, and 81 percent of videos viewed online worldwide are streamed using Flash. So, Adobe has that going for them.

Microsoft is fast-becoming the Redmond-headed stepchild of the online video world. The National Football League also chose Flash to stream its games earlier this year.

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