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Thursday, May 03, 2007

MLBAM and Silverlight

Maury Brown, our guru of all things related to the business of baseball at Baseball Prospectus, has many times documented the rise of Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) and how it has not only made baseball available in a very rich way but also added to the revenue stream of the owners. From it's first attempts at streaming games in September of 2002, all the while aided by the relentless march of technology, has grown to where it will host over three billion visitors and by the end of the year will crack the one million subscriber count for multimedia content.

I don't want to steal Maury's thunder but I had just had to pass along this demonstration of MLBAM's use of a new technology called Microsoft Silverlight. In a nutshell Silverlight is a cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in for delivering media experiences and interactive applications for the web. For software architects and developers heavily invested in the Microsoft platform (like myself) this is exciting since it allows development across platforms using the .NET Framework that we're also using to build our business applications.

In any case, MLBAM's President Bob Bowman and Justin Shaffer who is in charge of new media joined Microsoft at their MIX07 conference in Las Vegas earlier this week to demo how they'll be using Silverlight in the very near future. Essentially, Silverlight will be rolled into the MLB.TV applications later this summer and will enable a host of new features. Some of those demoed include:

  • More Bandwith: 1.5 Mbps streaming whereas today they stream at 400K and 700K

  • Composite Video: Overlays of the video stream that offer controls that allow you to manage the video or view enhanced information. For example, the data that you see today in Gameday will be made available via widgets that rest semi-transparently on top of the video in an unobtrusive form providing the wealth of additional information that MLBAM is collecting. For folks like me, this is a true value-add as it creates new ways of watching the game by integrating that information that we crave.

  • Chatting: In the same vein a chat widget will be available that allows for conversations with friends and fans of rival teams.

  • Player Tracker: The Player Tracker used in Mosaic will be available with widgets that overlay the video that provide real time updates on your players and can then make available highlights of your players.

  • Picture in Picture: They showed a nice feature where a "friend" can send a video clip which can then be viewed in "picture in a picture" mode while the main stream continues to play.

  • Resizing: One of the features that Silverlight enables is dynamic resizing to allow the user to check on other scores, stats, and content and resize the video window on the fly accordingly.

  • Mobility: And finally, they showed a forward looking demo that had Gameday running on a Windows mobile phone with the player tracker feature playing video clips.

  • As an MLB.TV subscriber this is some exciting stuff and for those who aren't subscribers it provides some additional impetus to get signed up.