With just one short day left until the official kickoff of the 2012 season of Major League Baseball, Roku has announced this year's update to the MLB.TV channel on their popular set top streaming media boxes. While the MLB.TV channel has remained largely the same in previous years, the 2012 version gets a new look and a bunch of new features.
The biggest difference you'll notice when you go to the MLB.TV channel is the look. The channel's interface is both sleeker and easier to navigate, and gives you the option to browse today's games, recent games, or browse by team. It also has a feature that's new this year: access to the MLB.TV free game of the day. Operating on the "the first hit is free" principle, the free game of the day feature has been part of the MLB.TV service for a couple years now. It gives people who are curious about MLB.TV the chance to try it for free before deciding whether they're going to buy. This year, for the first time, it's part of the MLB.TV Roku channel, too.
As in previous versions, the MLB.TV channel allows you to watch archive games from the entire season. This year, though, they've added the option to browse archive games by team. They've also added the ability to turn score displays on and off from anywhere, so that you can watch an archived game - or start a current game from the beginning - without worrying about spoilers.
Another new feature is the ability to select favorite teams. As part of that, it offers a grid view that shows you your favorite teams, as well as teams by division. You can see the grid view in the lead image above, and ponder with me for a moment who in their right mind would put the Red Sox and the Yankees next to each other in a list of favorite teams.
Video quality in this year's MLB.TV channel gets a boost, too. They've doubled the highest bitrate, which should significantly improve the (already impressive) HD quality of the video stream.
As with any other app or channel that lets you watch MLB.TV, the Roku channel requires an MLB.TV Premium subscription. You can still watch the free game of the day without a subscription, but to get the full effect, you have to pay. A premium subscription will set you back $124.99 for the whole season, or $24.99 per month. The service gets you access to every out-of-market game streamed directly to your computer, your Roku, or a variety of other devices (including your Xbox 360 or your iOS or Android device).
Unfortunately, the service is limited to out-of-market games. Games that are broadcast on your local networks or broadcast nationally on ESPN, FOX, TBS, etc. are blacked out. While those who live in their team's broadcast area might want to think twice about MLB.TV, the service is a pretty amazing bargain for those living outside their team's area.
Do you have a Roku? Check out the MLB.TV channel and let us know what you think in the comments.