Sony Corp is bringing baseball to America's living rooms on its PlayStation 3 video game console, ratcheting up the competition in the race to become the digital hub of the home.
Sony not only ups the ante in its rivalry with Microsoft's Xbox 360 console, but also positions itself as something of a challenger to cable companies and satellite television providers that have long been broadcasting sports to viewers in the United States. “This is one of the biggest deals we're bringing to the PS3, and it won't be the last one, there's lots of conversations going on,” said Peter Dille, senior vice president of Sony Computer Entertainment America. Sony, which has an installed base of 12 million PS3 consoles in the United States, will offer games in high-definition through Major League Baseball's MLB.TV, an Internet subscription service that is already available on computers and smartphones. MLB charges $25 a month, or $120 a year, for a premium subscription. Sony designed a custom interface for the offering, and users can scroll through live-streaming or archived games. The PS3 provides the functionality of a digital video recorder, allowing viewers to pause, fast-forward and rewind, and to jump to a particular inning in any game on the schedule. However, users will not be able to watch live games of teams in their local market, which are subject to local blackout rules. PS3 users will need to be subscribers to the free PlayStation Network (PSN) to access MLB.TV. PSN has 20 million members in North America.
Sony and Microsoft have been ducking it out to control entertainment in the living room beyond games, offering movies, shows and videos through their subscriber networks, PSN and Xbox Live. Both offer streaming movies through Netflix, and have been hunting for deals that can help transform their gaming consoles into one-stop-shops for content. “We're excited about bringing MLB onto the console … this is something you can't find on any other console,” Dille said. In Europe, Microsoft has struck deals with Vivendi unit Canal Plus and British pay-TV broadcaster BSkyB to provide content through the console, including soccer matches. Sony's PS3 has trailed Nintendo's Wii, the market leader, and the Xbox in the U.S. market, although the PS3 has generated momentum since a price cut to $299 last year. MLB.TV is also available on the Roku set-top box and through media provider Boxee.