April 5, 2007

A Potential Huge Problem With MLB's Digital Download Service

There may be huge problem with MLB's service of downloading individual games. And I'm trying not to get completely pissed off.

I have purchased many of these games since 2003, especially during the hot streak in August and September 2004. Considering how that season turned out, I'm really happy to have those. After the Red Sox signed Daisuke Matsuzaka, I went back and purchased, downloaded and burned two of his three WBC starts to CD-R.

I planned on watching them before the season began, but I never got around to it until a couple of days ago. When I pop one of the discs into my laptop, it tries to acquire a license in order to play the video. You have to log into your MLB account, so that only the actual purchaser of the game can watch it.

Instead of a log-in screen, however, I was directed to a page at MLB.com that no longer exists. The screen looked like this:

I am unable to log in and unable to watch the video file which MLB sold to me for $3.95. My only option is to click the "cancel" button. I tried a few other discs, but whether they were from 2003 or 2006, I got the same dead webpage.

On Wednesday evening, I called MLB customer service. It is wise to always keep this number handy: 1-866-800-1275. I have tried to watch MLB-TV twice this season and have had problems both times. The first time, MLB had no record of my order (though they had no problem charging my credit card); the second time, I got the white screen that asked for credit card info, but submitting that info has never worked in three years. When my TV switched from the Royals feed to NESN, I hung up. (I was trying to see if MLBTV was showing NESN.)

The Wednesday night recording told me that MLB was "experiencing an extremely high call volume" and that if my call required immediate attention, to please hang up and try calling again. Otherwise, I could send them an email and they promised they would respond within 48 hours.

Hang up and call again? Are you fucking kidding me? I've heard that some companies monitor people on hold and if someone sounds really pissed off, they sometimes move that person to the head of the line. So I let fly with my true feelings about the Commissioner's office -- yelling at the recording assuring me that MLB cares so much about me -- but I guess no one was listening. I finally gave up.

I tried again on Thursday morning. The same message about a lot of calls and emailing was there, but this time I was told to wait and my call would be answered in the order it was received. After seven minutes, MLB disconnected me. I called back. Waited on hold for six minutes. Got disconnected. Called back. Six minute wait. Disconnected. Called back. Six minute wait. Disconnected.

It seems obvious that MLB will disconnect any caller that remains on hold for more than six minutes. At that point, you have two choices: call back and go through the same thing again. Or give up and go away. Clearly, MLB hopes you choose Option #2.

After being disconnected four times in less than 20 minutes, I figured I would send an email and await that brisk response. I sent this:
I have tried calling customer service, but it keeps hanging up on me after six minutes. This has happened four times this morning. It is always at the six minute mark. You really ought to fix that problem.

I'll try emailing, which seems like a joke.

I have downloaded a number of games from the last four seasons -- many from the 2004 Red Sox season -- including the World Baseball Classic.

However, when I now go to watch any of them and the disc is busy getting the appropriate license to get the video to play, it directs me to an MLB webpage that no longer exists. There is nothing I can do at that point.

Did MLB actually delete the web page that is essential to fans being able to watch games they have paid for?

Please give me specific information that can enable me to watch the many games for which I have paid MLB.

P.S. I expect a response within 24-48 hours, as promised in your phone recording. (However, I am not hopeful. Emails I sent regarding Gameday Audio back in 2003 were never acknowledged.)
I sent that email at 12:55 pm on Thursday. We'll see when (or if) I get a response.

MLB has always kept its page for buying and downloading games somewhat hidden for some reason, but I have it bookmarked. The webpage has this message:
As part of MLB's continued desires to improve customer experiences, the Digital Download Service is going through an extensive upgrade. We appreciate your support and ask you to check back soon to view this improved section.
I have no idea how long this page has been up, how long MLB has been telling fans to "check back soon". Could this be the source of the problem?

Will MLB resurrect the page at some future date and thus allow the thousands of fans who have purchased games to actually be able to watch them again? Or has MLB stolen our money and the games we purchased are long gone? Are my CD-Rs nothing more than coasters?

Naturally, the log-in page should have never been deleted in the first place. A five-year-old would know that. But Selig's crew isn't that bright.

I'll keep you posted on what I find out. (Has anyone else experienced this problem?)


9casey said...

Redsock said:
After seven minutes, MLB disconnected me.

Someone has caller ID.

Redsock said:
I've heard that some companies monitor people on hold and if someone sounds really pissed off, they sometimes move that person to the head of the line. So I let fly with my true feelings about the Commissioner's office -- yelling at the recording assuring me that MLB cares so much about me -- but I guess no one was listening.

That will get you on the watch list...

Funny shit.......

You realize you are going to drive yourself crazy right.

With your books and being known as a baseball historian...

If you don't mind me asking . Have the Red Sox as an organization or mlb for that matter given you the chance to meet anybody high up or be recoginzed in any sort of way....
None of my business....just curious..

Jere said...

1st place in the east!

allan said...

Have the Red Sox as an organization or mlb for that matter given you the chance to meet anybody high up or be recoginzed in any sort of way....

No. I'm not sure why they would, actually.

9casey said...

Redsock said:
No. I'm not sure why they would, actually.

I am not sure why they wouldn't ..

Granted you have some strong views on things, but I believe you have some good ideas . And look out for a lot of those people who would just not make those calls.

You are , to them , maybe just another fan , but a fan nonetheless who cares and would like this billion dollar corporation to have some recourse when they don't do their jobs.

Just a thought......

And I was wondering if you could get a call into someone and get me friggin nesn......

I am blacked out of everything..accept the radio...

no mlb.tv....
no gameday audio
no espn game (unless sunday)
no ei (they black out the sox on that for me as well)

And I actually miss troop..It just doesn't sound the same....obviouslly

Jere said...

That's right: In a way, you're MORE screwed than Fairfield County, because you ARE in the part of Connecticut that's in NESN territory, but since your cable company doesn't offer NESN, you're still blacked out of all the other avenues. How they can't get a group of people to sit down for five minutes and solve this problem makes me want to stomp on pretty flowers.

Here's my solution that covers everyone's problems: Every person is given a list of every television channel, and checks off the ones they want. And they'd pay a certain amount for each channel. It's 2007. Can that really not be done? I'd just check off NESN, and be happy to pay whoever wants the money however much they want. It couldn't be more than my cable bill is now.

Terrible job, capitalist society. In Cuba we'd all get NESN. Or something.

Jason said...

I gave up on MLB-TV this year, as it was the surest way to ruin every good day I had last summer. I had the same problem Redsock is experiencing, but then decided to say screw it and hit the buttons for "I want to buy MLB TV and give you money right now." Somehow, an operator ALWAYS picked up within 30 seconds. I gave them the business and demanded some help - which of course never came, but at least I was tying up their phone lines and being heard by an actual person. Maybe we should, as a large group, do that at a specific time to get the message across - just a concentrated blast of people tying up the sales lines complaining about the shitty service and nonexistent customer service.

Jackie said...

I've had the same experience. Last year I got so frustrated with MLB.tv that I just sent a batch of expletive-laden emails to them. I got a very polite reply... three months later. Par for the course.

I hate to be so pessimistic, but MLB will always have crappy service because there's nothing we can really do to hurt them where it matters - in their purse. I guess we could organize a boycott of their products, but they know that ain't gonna happen because there's no alternative to MLB (like I'm really going to start following the local high school team instead of the Red Sox, right?) It's frustrating, but until the anti-trust exemption gets taken away, absolutely nothing will change. Hooray for free market capitalism...

G said...

Download DVD Shrink. See if it can remove the copyright protection. Depends on the format of the disc but worth a try.

allan said...

G: I have DVD Decrypter, but the games are not DVD files. They are one file of about 500MB. There must be a way around the license. MLB can't be that smart.

Jere: We think alike. Sign up for only the stations you want. Get 5 stations for $x, 10 for $x. You could even charge more for some "premium" stations, I wouldn't care. It makes perfect sense. So it will never happen.

Jim said...

Permit me to pile on. I paid for one month of MLB-TV in early March as it was the only source of Sox ST games, plus I wanted to check out its quality. In Feb., I also joined RedSox Nation, since it includes MLB-audio for the same price (plus a bumper sticker). About a week ago I got an email from Red Sox.com inviting me to renew my 07 membership. All my return emails trying to correct them have bounced back with the 'box full' flag. Since I can still log-in to radio, I've given up. Meanwhile, on Mar.31, I emailed MLB.com saying I did not want to renew MLB-TV for another month, or ever, for that matter. It bounced back. Later, I received an email informing me that my subscription was renewed automatically. I returned the email, repeating my cancel order, and got the standard "we'll reply in 3-5 days". A few days later I checked my on-line Mastercard account, and lo and behold, there's a $14.95 (plus Canadian exchange) charge from MLB.com for April's monthly subscription (dated Mar. 30). Needless to say, I'm having the same phone success as everyone else. Also have not received the email reply. These people are not incompetent, they're pure evil.

Glad I've got EI on cable but it grates still having to deal with these bastards until they can't charge me every month. Plus, I wonder if I'll ever get my April fee back (or my bumper sticker).

Jere said...

Here's one trick I know works, (not that it solves these problems): You can use em el bee tv if you log in with someone else's ID and password. So you can split a package with a friend. I don't know how many computers can be signed in at once, but it's at least two.

If everybody split a package with someone else, that would be hitting them in the purse, as they'd make half as much $ on the whole thing.

andy said...

I just opened an old game I downloaded last year with no problem with licenses. Did you try to open the file with an alternate video program?

Justin said...

I missed the Sox opener because the stupid system couldn't verify my information. Apparently, that's their new attempt at preventing people from sharing accounts. They ask for your billing address and credit card number. Unfortunately, as Redsock mentioned, it doesn't work.

I called the toll-free number (which was not free for me since I now live overseas), and was put on hold for two hours. Missed the opener and gave up on the call. I wrote an email and did get a response though:

The message that you are receiving is a address verification screen, the reason you are getting this message is for us to identify that you as a subscriber is the one accessing your subscription.

If you have any questions please contact customer support at

Wrote back telling them that they missed my point, and got this:

We apologize for the inconvenience. Unfortunately, we do have frequent AVS checks. This is only for the purpose of verifying that the customer who purchased the product is the person that is accessing the account. Next time that you receive an AVS check that you are unable to pass contact us at (866) 800-1275.

Please make sure that you have access to a landline phone number to verify your location.
Thanks again for taking the time to write.

Landline phone number to verify my location? I mentioned many times that I live overseas. I doubt they'll be able to "verify" my location thousands of miles away. Again, the pointless response has gotten nowhere.

I know you guys have bigger problems than I've encountered, but I feel like an idiot for getting lured into this again. This time it was that 700kbps high quality demo bait that I took.

woti-woti: perhaps try complaining to your credit card company about the charge. Forward them the emails you sent MLB and see if they can get your money back.

chip said...

I juststumbled in here from goolge, but I'm having the exact same problem. I purchased a bunch of games through the digital download service, and now get directed to a 404 when it tries to verify my license. I've had this problem for over a year, got the run-around from MLB, and eventually forgot about it. But, I recently remembered and just sent them another email. Has anyone found a solution yet? This is ridiculous and is the exact reason DRM is a horrible idea. I'm the customer who actually paid, and I'm the one who can't watch my sox games. Lesson learned. I'll never buy anything DRM-laden again, and that includes Blu-Ray and HD-DVD discs.

Unknown said...

Not sure if you are still monitering this blog...I have the same problem...but the download games link is back and operational...horrible actually. Here is the link.


I have still not figured out how to reaquire the lisences. I guess it's time to start calling. what fun!

allan said...

I was planning on a follow-up to all this crap.

I see that MLB is offering new games while still refusing to give fans the games we paid for years ago.