I was tipped off by IDG report Juan Carlos Perez that Major League Baseball had pulled their MLB.TV blog earlier today, after opening day problems for the paid service that broadcasts games in real time. (The service starts at $14.95/month or $79.95/year). You can read the story by Perez at Computerworld.
As Perez wrote, the MLB.TV blog had been active for months, with hundreds of comments from MLB.TV subscribers. But now all that remains is a single terse entry. Gone are the posts chronicling the beta testing results. Gone are useful links and customer service numbers. And I believe, gone is the opportunity that MLB had to support and dialog with unhappy subscribers during what is probably a pretty stressful crisis.
I don’t know the reasons why MLB killed off the blog and Perez couldn’t get the organization to return his calls. If the MLB.TV team didn’t have time to handle comments, they could have turned off comments and explained why. If they were “all hands on deck” to fix the service and didn’t have time to blog, they could have written a post explaining that.
But to engage the MLB.TV audience in a rich dialog for months, and then to suddenly kill it off feels like a teenage break-up. MLB could have and should have been more respectful of its audience (and especially PAYING subscribers!)
You can see what the blog *used* to look like – I’ve included screen captures of a cached page that is no longer available. I’m including the posts in chronological order so that you can see what happened. Note that these are just four posts that I was able to see — there were many more.
Posted April 3, 2009 at 4:24pm. Only two games are being shown on Friday for free, and there are two updates acknowledging some of the problems the service has been having. There were 73 comments, but these weren’t viewable in the cached page.
Posted April 4, 2009 at 12:03pm. This is the second day of the beta weekend, with only three games being broadcast. There continues to be acknowledgement that there are problems, but the tone is open and casual. There are 49 comments on this post.
Posted April 5, 2009 at 6:28pm. This post starts off with an apology. “First off, yesterday was not great. Apologies for the lack of communication. There were many fires and we were off working on them and didn’t man the blog.”
The post addresses many of the key issues raised by people commenting on the blog. It appears to be a good give and take between the MLB and subscribers.
Not included in the screenshot at the bottom of the post are customer service phone numbers, emails, and links to FAQs. There are 43 comments.
Posted April 6, 2009 at 11:37am. Includes appreciation for the feedback, “Many bugs and issues would not have been caught without your help. We have a lot more to do still to get the player to perform in a more stable manner across the board.”
Also helpful are links at the bottom of the post and customer service phone numbers, similar to the content from the day before. There are 45 comments.
Posted April 6, 2009 at 11:37am. Note that this is the same time as the previous, now-gone post. But the time stamp on the first comment is April 7, 2009 at 6:32pm, more than a day later.
The full text of the post is, “After the predictable Opening Day issues with our first opportunity to truly do end-to-end live HD video (we don’t get a Spring Training), we have launched our new HD player. Please visit the MLB Support Forum to post a solution, suggestion, or question. Thank you.”
MLB.TV posted a few comments directing people to the Support Forum. In the forums, MLB Support has been active in responding to threads. But they are missing an opportunity to answer multiple questions directly and to give updates on service status directly on the blog.
This reminds me of how Dell effectively used its Direct2Dell blog to handle the battery recall crisis back in 2006. I’m hoping that MLB comes around to bring back the dialog they started with the MLB.TV Blog – I bet baseball fans would really appreciate it.