The Week in Geek: Consumer sports technology roundup

By Seth Elkin

The Internet is rapidly bringing an end to the age of the media content gatekeeper. Wal-Mart announced this week that it’s going to start selling video downloads. And Amazon announced a deal with TiVo. Internet video isn’t going away. Teams, leagues and networks need to have Web strategies.
There’s been a lot of frustration on the part of baseball fans about the pending Extra Innings deal between MLB and DirecTV. It will be interesting to watch how many jilted Extra Innings cable customers elect to subscribe to the MLB.TV package on MLB.com. The Sports Business Journal reported last week that MLB will stream game video at 700 Kbps instead of the 350 or 400 Kbps it has used previously, which should address criticism about the image quality.
Harris Interactive recently reported that YouTube users watch less TV. That’s the effect of Web video.

When it pulled the plug on its Mobile service last fall, ESPN vowed to eventually license the content to another carrier. The Worldwide Leader followed through this week, announcing a deal with Verizon Wireless. There is plenty of sports content on wireless phones. Amp’d Mobile added NBA TV not long ago, and the NFL has an extensive package on Sprint. It’s not just something edgy anymore, it should be part of any marketing package.

Last week, we wondered about what exclusive licenses are doing to sports video games. It would be easy for the game-makers that have those licenses to get a little complacent. But 2K Sports sounds like it has some nice upgrades in store for this year’s version of its Major League Baseball game.

And finally, this may seem counterintuitive for us — it’s hardly high tech — but believe it or not, board games are making a comeback. Maybe it’s that whole retro thing. We hear the kids are scouring the thrift shops for Members Only jackets these days. The American International Toy Fair gets going in New York next week, and one of the stories that will be coming out of it is that board games are in. That got us thinking about simulation games like APBA. OK, so a bunch of stat geeks sitting around playing APBA doesn’t have much to do with television. Neither does a bunch of guys sitting around playing poker, but that doesn’t seem to have stopped anyone from putting it on the air.