November 7, 2007

My Conference Call With MLB

MLB is clearly concerned about my/its downloading problem -- or, more likely, about the uniformly negative attention it received today. I received an email from a VP of Communications at MLB this afternoon and was part of a conference call this evening.

During the call, MLB agreed that it had handled this issue in an "sub-optimal manner". Whatever it had done to alert customers to the potential problems during the DRM platform switchover was an "inelegant solution" and MLB "did not effectively" get the word out about the old DRM platform. I'd say it was a non-existent solution. To my knowledge, MLB changed DRM platforms and did absolutely nothing to inform its customers about the switch.

I have my suspicions that the solution put forth by MLB during the conference call would not have come about had my post not received the attention it did. The MLB representative heading the call did not confirm it; indeed, I didn't even ask. However, after thinking about my past dealings with MLB, I find it hard to believe that MLB knew about this problem, was concerned about it and was hard at work independently to find a solution that would satisfy its customers -- and that MLB was ready to roll out this solution at the exact moment that I posted my complaint.

In any case, whether for altruistic reasons or selfishly trying to save face, I appreciate MLB taking this issue seriously and working to find a decent solution.

What I was told is this:

Everyone who purchased a game download while MLB was on the old platform (prior to 2007) will be receiving an email (possibly within 48 hours) with a link that will allow the customer to re-download the game again -- for free. The MLB rep said they are working with a database of everyone who had ordered a game(s) and would be sending out emails very soon. It was unclear if, for example, you had purchased five games if you would receive five emails or one email with five links.

I was told that MLB is in the process of making all of these games -- both regular season and playoff games -- available again. The playoff games will take a little longer to restore, as they will be in a higher resolution.

Assuming all goes well, I will be happy to have the games again. However, this solution is far from ideal.

These new downloads will still have DRM protection, so customers will have to go to MLB.com for a license, as they always have. I asked if, since MLB allows customers to receive a license at only three separate computers, that as people upgrade or replace their machines over time, they eventually could be left with no way to play the files on their fourth computer, the MLB rep said "Yes, that's a problem."

Which means that the really cool games -- like the four games of the Red Sox 2004 ALCS comeback -- games that you revisit and replay many times -- are the most vulnerable to being lost in the future.

I suggested that MLB could simply make the files available for a strict download -- and if a few fans made an extra copy or two for their friends, just chalk that up to the cost of doing business. MLB pricing the current games it is selling at $1.99 per download and not the previous $3.95 would go a long way to prevent that. Most people would not balk at paying two bucks for a copy of a favorite game. But give them the game without any DRM strings attached. It would save MLB from any possible future headaches (like the one they are experiencing now) and will make the fan happy.

The MLB rep conceded this was a "valid point" and while it will not be MLB's policy in the foreseeable future, it was an argument that he said would likely have a lot of support, at both this evening's conference table and throughout MLB.

I asked the MLB rep if he could send some official statement to me about what the company will be doing, so I could include it in a blog follow-up. That should be arriving tomorrow.

17 comments:

L-girl said...

Good work!!

One persistent, articulate consumer + the internet = results.

ish said...

There's always a brightside: At least they're keeping your offseason free from boredom. Good work, though. Shows everyone the benefit of doing more than just complain about something.

chip said...

Good stuff. I'm anxiously awaiting their "official" plan...

Wiffler said...

Nice work man! I-girl sums this up nicely. I'll be waiting for my email from MLB...

Jeff said...

The power of one voice - imagine! Nice work, Allan!

Laughing Man said...

Although this problem stemmed from the digital age... I'm just trying to think how difficult and time consuming this would be before the internet, before blogs, and before all these tech sites popped up.

Its just amazing how much can be done in so little time these days, and how quickly information can spread.

And yes, I'm glad MLB is finally addressing this problem. They should just remove DRM as a gift to people who even bother to pay for these games instead of BTing them.

westcoastsox said...

Hey, it's the power of the blogosphere. People like CHB pooh-pooh the new media, but blogs can really have influence by highlighting a problem and spreading the word much faster than a newspaper or magazine reporter ever could (and instantaneously, too). Congratulations on your accomplishment!

redsock said...

It sucks that it takes such an effort -- and some luck -- to force MLB to do the right thing (assuming they will do the right thing).

Without a push from consumers, they wouldn't lift a finger to right the wrongs they have caused.

When someone says "why bother complaining, nothing ever happens", well, it isn't always true.

I'm definitely staying on top of this story. And I would love to hear from anyone who gets an email from MLB regarding these older downloads.

redsock said...

Kung Fu Rodeo also says Boooooooooo to MLB!

L-girl said...

Although this problem stemmed from the digital age... I'm just trying to think how difficult and time consuming this would be before the internet, before blogs, and before all these tech sites popped up.

Its just amazing how much can be done in so little time these days, and how quickly information can spread.


Man, I think of this all the time. If you do any activism or advocacy - and if you did it in the "old days" of paper and postage - it's like a friggin miracle.

(Or as we say around here, a fraggin miracle.)

redsock said...

Shack News.

redsock said...

Lookout Landing

The Baseball Zealot

tim said...

LONG LIVE THE INTERNETS!

Seriously, nice!


As for this DRM technology - would it be possible for MLB to package it in roll form and sell it as Toilet Paper? Cause that's all it seems to be good for...

Chris said...

I am happy to see the MLB responding to fix the problem they have created for themselves by making purchased content available. This is a step towards appeasing the loyal fans and customers they have abused, but doesn't solve the underlying problem.

My biggeest concerned is that MLB is taking their broken DRM system and replacing it with a broken DRM system. The 3-computer playback limit is clearly unnacceptable, unless they refund your money once their DRM prevents you from view your purchased content. As consumers, our power lies in our wallets. As tempted as we will be but from the new broken DRM system, we have to resist until MLB comes up with a replay system that is acceptable to us.

redsock said...

Reported on the Guardian's technology blog and at Consumerist.com.

redsock said...

Mathew Ingram, technology writer for Canada's Globe and Mail, scores it: Blogosphere 1, Baseball 0.

redsock said...

Also at Podcasting News and P2Pnet.