MLB.com Plays Ball With Adobe Flash; Silverlight Sent to Bench

By Ken Kerschbaumer

MLB.com will stream its video and audio via Adobe Flash for the 2009 Major League Baseball season, ending its use of Microsoft Silverlight technology. “This is really exciting for us because, over the course of the past few months, we have reached deals with the NBA, NFL, NHL, and now MLB.com, so we have the four major U.S. professional sports leagues using Flash technology,” says Jim Guerard, Adobe Systems VP/GM of dynamic media.

MLB.com will also rely on Adobe’s AIR technology to provide an Internet experience that can be delivered directly to the desktop without the need to open a browser. “With AIR, the user can watch prerecorded or live Flash video and [have] a lot of other capabilities, like the ability to save and download videos,” says Guerard.

MLB.com has experience with Adobe Flash technology and, this year, used Flash for interactive services and branding. But video streaming of MLB games, more than 2,500 games during the 2008 season, was done using Silverlight.

A critical component will be the use of Adobe Flash Media Server, a hub that allows Flash-based applications to connect via Real Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP). The server can send and receive data to and from the connected users and supports MPEG-4 h.264 video and HE-AAC audio streaming, DVR functionality, mobile delivery to Adobe Flash Lite 3, logging, multipoint publishing, and more.

Guerard says that Adobe has seen its market share of streaming video worldwide climb from 66% to 81% in a year. “Flash players are installed on more than 98% of computers and works instantly,” he says. “We have also done a lot of hard work with the MPEG-4 h.264 format and improved our Flash Media Server so we can deliver live data and stats around the video for an immersive experience.”

The use of Flash also will make it easier for MLB.com to deliver video to handheld devices since the player is already on 800 million handset devices.

“Also, as we look to the next generation of TV set-top boxes, we can have Flash run seamlessly and provide a three-screen experience,” adds Guerard. The use of h.264 and the HE-AAC streaming audio format together can deliver a compelling visual and auditory experience to TV sets.