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 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.