© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

04/03/08 2:00 PM ET

MLB.TV is back, bigger and better

NexDef plug-in brings TV-quality streams to your desktop

News item: MLB.com announced that MLB.TV reached unprecedented Opening Day levels by delivering more than 1.7 million live game video streams and adding nearly 36,000 individual subscribers during the first two days of games from March 31-April 1. Both figures represented increases more than double the comparable activities from the same time period in 2007.

Matt Smith is a 24-year-old A's fan who lives in Norwich, England, and he is now in his fourth season as a member of the ever-growing MLB.TV Generation. He is one of those people who nearly 36,000 others just joined, and he explained in an email to MLB.com why he is one of more than one million fans who have watched live games this way:

"Want to watch all 162 of your favorite team's regular-season games? No problem: Watch the games that are on at a convenient time live and watch the rest via the archive. Want to risk a heart attack watching all of the outings by your fantasy team's starters? Go right ahead. Don't want to miss any of the big games and dramatic moments that make up an MLB season? Thanks to MLB.TV, you don't have to.

"None of the above would be possible without MLB.TV and my experience as a baseball fan would be much poorer as a result."

As usual, your fellow baseball fans, like Smith, make the best case for why it is in everyone's interest to subscribe to MLB.TV ($89.95 yearly or $14.95 monthly) or MLB.TV Premium ($119.95 yearly or $19.95 monthly).

The technology has continually improved every year since Major League Baseball conducted a Rangers-Yankees experimental live Web cast in August 2002, pioneering a way of life for baseball fans that became the first case of a major sports league broadcasting its full schedule live over the Internet. Here is what you need to know about the world of MLB.TV in 2008:

NexDef Highlights

• The new MLB.TV NexDef plug-in enables users to view the 1.2 MB streams
• 1.2 MB streams are the highest quality that MLB.com offers for live games (TV-quality streams)
• Plug-in and 1.2 streams are only available to MLB.TV Premium subscribers during the season
• Boosts the performance of your Internet connection to provide smooth, TV-quality viewing
• Provides improved video quality and faster streaming
• One-time, easy installation

MLB.TV Mosaic Highlights

• Watch up to six games simultaneously on the same computer screen
• Player Tracker: Track your favorite players and watch their at-bats (live or on-demand)
• PC/Mac compatible
• Available to MLB.TV Premium users only

Silverlight Highlights (New Media Player)

• Better video handling
• Dynamic resizing
• Integrated game information
• One-time, easy installation download
• PC/Mac compatible
• Available to MLB.TV and MLB.TV Premium users

There is another new reason to subscribe right now to MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium. You will be registered in the MLB.TV Sweepstakes, meaning an easy opportunity to win a 26-inch Sharp AQUOS TV. You know, for that cable or satellite connection that is starting to augment that live computer experience rather than the other way around.

You can watch all 2,430 out-of-market regular-season games live on MLB.TV and MLB.TV Premium. Once again, both products come with the popular MLB.com Gameday Audio included, giving you a choice of the home or away broadcast crew for every live game through the World Series. And once again, there will be fans all over the world following their favorite club live on MLB.TV because they don't live near the team, because they are traveling, because they are at school -- more reasons all the time.

Just ask that A's fan in England. He not only blogs about the games, but about the ongoing thrill of this technology.

"Quite simply, MLB.TV has completely transformed the way in which international baseball fans can follow a Major League Baseball season," Smith said. "We generally do not enjoy the luxury of multiple live games broadcast on TV per week accompanied by highlights shows and such. While we do have some great TV coverage in Britain, it's understandably very limited in terms of the number of games that are shown and the time at which they are broadcast. First pitch is normally at midnight or 1 in the morning, which is great for insomniacs, night-shift workers and parents with newborn babies, but not so helpful if you have to get up for work the next day.

"Thanks to MLB.TV, you are no longer at the mercy of TV schedulers showing a couple of games per week, mostly involving the same big-market teams. MLB.TV puts the power back into the hands of the baseball fan.

"British baseball fans can now watch as many games as they like and whichever teams they like, when they like. Weekends are a particularly good time to watch live baseball on MLB.TV because of the prevalence of day games in the U.S., which start in the early evening over here. And of course, the difficulties caused by the time difference between the two countries are often solved by the ability to watch archived games in any case. It is the perfect product for British/International baseball fans."

Try it out for free on Saturday. Major League Baseball Advanced Media is offering three free games to give you the MLB.TV Premium experience, available with the NexDef plug-in to watch it on 1.2 MB pleasure. Those games include Blue Jays at Phillies at 1 p.m. ET, Orioles at Nationals at 6 p.m. ET and Padres at Angels at 9 p.m. ET.

Try it out, and you are likely to share this sentiment of Matt Smith:

"I can't imagine being without it."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.