MLB Returns to Roku for 2011 Season - But Read the Fine Print

March 3, 2011 - 21:00 -- RokuGuide

Fans of Major League Baseball will again be able to watch every regular season game in HD on their Roku players. However, be careful to read the fine print to find out what you're getting. Many Roku owners who signed up for a pricey subscription to have been upset to find that spring training games will not be streamed to the Roku.

But don't blame Roku: Roku users aren't the only ones who will miss out on spring training. Spring training games are available only on PCs and on Apple devices, which includes the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. That leaves out those who want to watch spring training on the PS3, the Boxee, or any other streaming media device.

Other features that are promoted on the MLB.TV website, but are missing on the Roku, include real-time highlights and stats, alternate audio options that let you listen to either the home or away team's broadcast, the Pitch by Pitch Widget that tracks each individual pitch, Clickable Linescores that lets you watch any player's at-bat from a selected half-inning, Fantasy Player Tracker for tracking your fantasy league players.

So, what do you get with your subscription? The MLB.TV ads state that you get "every regular season game live or on demand". Did you catch the use of the word "or"? It doesn't say "live AND on demand", and that's where you have to read the fine print: Blackout and other restrictions apply.. More specifically, "live games will be blacked out in each applicable Club's home television territory, regardless of whether that Club is playing at home or away. If a game is blacked out in an area, it is not available for live game viewing." According to the MLB website, blackouts are determined in part by your IP address, so having an out-of-state buddy or relative sign up for you may not unblock the game if your IP address accurately identifies your physical location.

And don't forget the Regular Season Weekend U.S. National Live Blackout, under which "live games occurring each Saturday with a scheduled start time after 1:10 PM ET or before 7:05 PM ET and each Sunday with a scheduled start time after 5:00 PM ET, will be blacked out in the United States."

Is it still worth $99.99 per year or $19.99 per month? Up that to $119.99 per year ($24.99 per month) for the premium package, which adds the ability to choose either the home or away broadcast. Only you can make that call. Serious baseball fans may find the price is right and the restrictions palatable, especially if they follow an out-of-town team that isn't blacked out on weekdays and is rarely shown on their local station. I'm not here to criticize the MLB offering - I'm just giving you fair warning about what to expect. Judging by many of the comments on the Roku and MLB forums, a lot of subscribers never bothered to read the fine print.