Major League Baseball handed Microsoft some very bad news by reverting back to the Adobe Flash player after just one year with Microsoft’s Silverlight browser plug-in. This season, baseball fans will watch live and on-demand video at MLB.com via the Flash player. MLB.com offers the Web’s most successful subscription service with over 500,000 subscribers.
The trouble started last November when Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) — the league’s technical group — announced it would discontinue using Silverlight after less than a year. The decision has impact far beyond baseball, as MLBAM also handles CBS’ webcasts of the NCAA Basketball Tournament and the 2009 Masters golf tournament.
As reported by CNET, sources close to the negotiations between the MLB and Microsoft said a series of glitches and conflicts between the companies led to the split. First, baseball wanted users to be able to download and install Silverlight without administrative rights so people could watch baseball at work. Second, MLB considered Silverlight unstable. For example, on opening day last year, many MLB.com subscribers couldn’t login or watch games due to Silverlight malfunctions that lasted several days.
Microsoft declined to comment but pointed out that other major sporting events have used Silverlight, including NBC’s webcast of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games and CBS’s online presentation of the NCAA basketball tournament. NBC recently announced that it will broadcast the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver using Silverlight.
When CNET asked MLBAM CEO Bob Bowman, “What did you see in Flash that impressed you?” he responded with a series of thinly-veiled digs at Microsoft:
“You see several things. You see a high-grade product that’s in some form on 99 percent of the browsers. You’ve got something that’s got mass usage. Secondly you see with Adobe a company committed to the customer experience in video with the Flash Player. We see a partner that continues to invest in their product. They have the same desire that we do. They want the Flash Player to be the best thing anybody has ever seen and we want that. When you partner with people like that, it’s not a philosophical discussion. We know where we want to be now how do we get there.”
Article published on April 9, 2009
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