The following item was contributed by Ronald Grover, BusinessWeek’s Los Angeles bureau chief.
Major League Baseball’s super-aggressive online service, which has been streaming “out of market” games to baseball-loving computer owners since 2002, is making the leap as well to cell phones and TV. Just a few weeks after announcing that it had created an “app” that would stream games from its MLB.tv service to users of Apple’s iPhone and iPod touches, major league baseball has signed on with Roku, whose Roku digital video player delivers online content to television viewers.
“Delivering live and on-demand MLB games to the Roku player is huge for our customers who value great quality content and ease of use,” says Anthony Wood, Roku’s founder and CEO. Roku already delivers movies and TV show on demand, courtesy of Netflix and Amazon Video on Demand, in what is fast becoming one of the largest convergence plays between online content and TV viewing.
Under its deal with MLB.com, Roku users can pay $34.95 for the remainder of the current baseball season and get an unlimited number of games not being played within the local TV market in which they live. (The TV rights to those games are held by local baseball or cable channels and thus are excluded from viewing on a competing TV-centric outlet.) Where available, the games will be delivered in high definition, according to Roku.
A Roku player, which is $99, connects directly to most TV sets and uses a broadband Internet connection. A prompt for the MLB.tv service will show up on the TV set screen for subscribers of the service. Games up to seven days old are also available to be viewed on demand. MLB.tv currently has more than 350,000 subscribers.