Sprint snags live MLB game audio; Mobile ESPN users left out

MLB.com is leveraging the WAP site it developed to deliver live audio streaming of Major League baseball telecasts to Sprint cellphone subscribers. And other cellphone service providers are in BAM s sites.

The deal isn t exclusive, says Adam Ritter, MLB.com VP of wireless. “We re looking to develop similar products that are compatible with other carriers.

The service is only available to Sprint subscribers. Ironically, Mobile ESPN subscribers, who can buy their phones at Sprint stores and rely on Sprint s cellular network for voice and data delivery, will not be able to subscribe to the $5.99 a month service.

To access the service Sprint users visit the WAP site through their cellphone Web browser and access the MLB section. Once there they simply sign up. Subscribers can access the away and home radio telecasts for every game as well as Spanish-language telecasts when available. The games will also include the local radio spots sent out with the original transmission.

Ritter says MLB decided to use the QCELP codec to compress the audio streams. The Qcelp codec compresses each 20 milliseconds of 8000 Hz, 16- bit sampled input speech into one of four different size output frames: Rate 1 (266 bits), Rate 1/2 (124 bits), Rate 1/4 (54 bits) or Rate 1/8 (20 bits). The codec chooses the output frame rate based on analysis of the input speech and the current operating mode (either normal or reduced rate). For typical speech patterns, this results in an average output of 6.8 k bits/sec for normal mode and 4.7 k bits/sec for reduced rate mode.

While streaming video of the games seems like the next logical step it could be a while before that step is taken. Radio telecasts are not subject to local blackout restrictions but TV telecasts are. As a result, MLB.com will need to either wait until the day when those restrictions are lifted or there is a way to technically black out a cellphone that is always on the move.

Dave Mellin, Sprint spokesman, says that 16 cellphone models can currently access the service. The key is they need to be a multimedia phone, he says. Other Sprint services include the ability to deliver video highlights of every game (with the exception of Monday Night Football which is on the Mobile ESPN phone).

We view the sports area as a very important part of our efforts to attract new customers, says Mellin.

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