If you have no interest in Major League Soccer, feel free to stop reading now. I do my best to keep sports talk out of this blog, but this post may help a few people with questions they want answered. About two weeks ago when I was looking for a review of MLS MatchDay Live for this season, I couldn’t find one. So here it is: a review of MLS MatchDay Live for the 2011 season.
I bought the service about a week ago and so far, I am pleased. I got it at the sale price of $40, which lasts through today. After that it’s still relatively cheap at $59 for the season. Either way it’s much cheaper than comparable packages for other sports. The features seem pretty similar to last year, and the new features are pretty well advertised by MLS on the MatchDay page. Basically, you have access to over 200 MLS games. Some of the major selling points are HD video, picture in picture, and a mosaic mode where you can watch 3 games at once. Here are my favorite aspects of the service:
- The picture in picture mode is great. The layout is easy to navigate, and it’s very simple to switch between games.
- The quality of the stream, if your computer can handle it, is great. There are four different video settings, so even old, slow computers or connections can handle the lower quality streams stream.
- There’s an archive for any game you missed, including any games that were blacked out when they played live (more on that in a bit.) There’s also an option to watch condensed games, so you can watch the exciting points of an entire game in about 18 minutes. This is easily my favorite feature. It’s a great way to keep up with teams around the league, rather than focusing on just one or two.
And I really only have two negatives, which certainly won’t affect everyone:
-My computer happens to be old and slow, so I watch at the lowest setting. (400 KBPS) This works, and there is rarely any lag; however, I suggest you ensure that your computer and connection can handle the program before buying it. My girlfriend’s computer handles the higher quality streams perfectly (The highest setting is 3MBPS). The picture is clear, and the stream is smooth. I imagine that hooking it up to an HDTV would look great. My computer can not handle the Mosaic mode at all. It can barely handle picture-in-picture. But I also use a laptop that’s five or six years old. If you have anything from around that time period or newer you should be fine.
- Some people have problems with the local blackout restrictions. I live in Albany, NY, so Red Bulls games are blacked out for me, in addition to any nationally broadcast games. I’ve heard of some people in the Midwest missing out on two team’s games, even though they only live within the range of one broadcaster. For example, I believe there were complaints that both RSL and Rapids games are blacked out for some people, even though they live in Colorado and can’t access RSL games through their cable package. I was afraid that I may miss out on both New England and New York games, since I’m equidistant from each city, even though we don’t get any Boston sports channels. But in my case, the blackout restrictions are true to the viewing area. I can get MSG on cable, so New York games are blacked out. I have no problem with that, as the rules are stated very clearly here.
I was disappointed to find out that nationally broadcast games, even if they’re broadcast on a Spanish language channel, are blacked out as well. I suppose it makes some sense, and again, the MLS is pretty up front about the blackout restrictions. I guess I just tend to forget that games are even broadcast on those channels since I don’t think of watching them. So even if a game’s only broadcast nationally on Galavision (owned by Univision), it will still be blacked out when it plays live.
Again I think it’s worth noting that you get access to the archives, and even games that are blacked out will be added to the archives after either 24 or 48 hours, depending on the situation.
Here are some questions that I can not answer for you but are worth bringing up:
-Do you have access to playoff games? I think I read that last year you did not, and that you could extend your service for a small added fee.
-Do you have access to Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup games? I have no idea here, but since they’re not regular season games, there’s reason to believe that you may not.
- They claim that there will soon be access to T.V. connected devices soon, is that true? I assume it is, but I have no idea when it’ll happen or what they mean exactly. I’m assuming and hoping that it will be available on the Xbox 360. Xbox is a pretty big sponsor of the league, after all, so it would make sense. But I haven’t seen anything official on the issue.
So there it is. I hope this may help a few people looking to see if MatchDay is worth buying. I believe it is, provided you’ve got a computer that can handle the minimum requirements. If you’re lucky enough to read this while the sale is still on, I think that it’s a great deal.