Blog Post

MLB Struggles With Switch Back From Microsoft Silverlight To Adobe Flash

Major League Baseball dropped Microsoft’s Silverlight for Adobe’s Flash this year, citing the media player’s higher reliability. But four days into the baseball season, hundreds of users are complaining about choppy video and audio on MLB.TV. The complaints are particularly embarrassing for MLB because MLB.TV’s debut last year was also dogged by problems.

To make matters worse, MLB appears to be making efforts to paper over the embarrassment: Earlier this week on its blog, the league acknowledged some of these problems, saying, “We have a lot more to do still to get the [media] player to perform in a more stable manner across the board,” according to PC World. But, strangely, all the entries on the blog, which explained that many of the issues had to do with a plug-in called NexDef, have since been deleted. There is now only one post, which states that the Opening Day issues were “predictable.” Visitors are encouraged to comment on the MLB.TV support forums. An MLB spokesman did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

All of this has not been lost on Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT). In a post Monday, the company said that while Adobe (NSDQ: ADBE) Flash had high penetration, NexDef did not. “Ubiquity here is a red herring — what customers really want are high-quality solutions,” Silverlight’s Steve Sklepowich wrote. And in another post today, Christian Thilmany, a member of Microsoft’s developer and platform evangelism group, refers to the problems and says “maybe they should have stayed with Silverlight.”

Update: I clarified this post to indicate that while the NexDef plug-in is now needed to stream MLB.TV in HD, it is not an Adobe Flash plug-in.

10 Responses to “MLB Struggles With Switch Back From Microsoft Silverlight To Adobe Flash”

  1. This has nothing to do with Flash vs. Silveright. And NextDef is not "Adobe (NSDQ: ADBE) Flash plug-in" . The next def experience is driven by a delivery service called Swarmcast. Swarmcast breaks live RTMP streams down into encapsulated http chunks, the regenerates the stream on the client. Notice how you have to install the Swarmcast client for NextDef. So MS is right in saying NextDef is not ubiquitios, becuase it is not part of the Flash Player, its a client side add on.

  2. MLB came out publicly though and defamed Silverlight saying the technology caused the problems and that is why they switched. The only thing that is worth taking away is not necessarily that Flash is good or bad, but that there reasons for switching were wrong. Furhtere there public negative commentary both form Adobe and MLB in regards to Microsoft have really come back to bite them in a negative way — think before you speak.

  3. Other sports leagues are using Flash (see NBA League Pass) and Silverlight (see the Olympics) without issue. I don't think the technology is at fault here in either case.

  4. This article is suspect and the postings on the public forums is suspect to me.

    You have many people invested in silverlight that could be posting erroneous items to then be followed by articles like this.

  5. media programmer

    I agree with the first comment. It is easy to chalk the problems up to be a client technology choice because that is what the end-user sees directly. May be there's even motivation to spin it into Silverlight vs Flash thing for press reasons. However, there is much more to the process of acquiring and delivering live video broadcast streams, especially at the scale that MLB is doing. If someone trips over the feed at the truck in Cleveland and blows up the stream, you can't really say any client technology will save the day. May be they are having issues with getting HD feeds. May be it's their CDN having issues. Maybe their encoding servers are busted. Who knows? I am a subscriber. I can watch the game just fine with their regular cheaper package. This is an improvement from last year in an of itself.