Review: Watching College Baseball on ULive

Welcome to you, too, CBS Sports ULive.

The college baseball season began this past weekend and, owing to a conspicuous absence of the professional game available for public consumption, I resolved that finding a collegiate game between two talented programs would serve as a serviceable antidote.

After reading Baseball American Aaron Fitt’s preview of the weekend’s games, I settled upon the series between No. 10 Vanderbilt and No. 2 Stanford as the one I’d most like to watch.

As one might expect, the viewing options were quite limited. The series was not broadcast by ESPN, or even ESPN3 (which appears not to carry any sort of collegiate baseball until a pair of games on March 2nd).

I could, however, access an online feed through the sites of both the Stanford and the Vanderbilt baseball programs.

In both cases, I was redirected to the Stanford Videos page — which appears, in this case at least, to serve as a sort of Stanford-themed “skin” for CBS Sports ULive, what I gather to be the streaming arm of the CBS Sports College Network.

Having no account, I was redirected to the ULive homepage. (Or maybe I navigated there myself. I don’t remember and also it doesn’t matter.) My concern, once here, was twofold: to discover both the cost of the service and also what sort of coverage of other games might be available.

Cost first. There are two options: a monthly subscription for $14.95 and a yearly one for $119.95. I won’t bother in this piece to suggest whether the product is “worth” the price — that is ultimately the choice of the reader. Given the nature of my interests — i.e. to watch college baseball until the major-league season begins — I opted for the former.

As for coverage, ULive essentially offers most of what you won’t see on ESPN. (As for ULive’s relationship with the conference-based television networks, I’m not sure how that works — whether games are broadcast on both ULive and the relevant conference network, or merely one at a time.) Among the live sports available for viewing on Sunday, for example, were the following: baseball, women’s tennis, softball, women’s lacrosse, women’s basketball, men’s wrestling, and men’s volleyball. The men’s basketball games that are available — when they are available — aren’t from top-flight programs.

As for baseball, there were maybe 20 games available on Saturday and Sunday each, about 15 of which were available in a video feed. Some games were available only as an audio feed (Arizona State’s game against Western Michigan, for example), while other weren’t available at all, so far as I could tell (for example, No. 25 Cal State Fullerton vs. No. 1 Florida).

There is a bit of a peculiarity with the search function that’s worth noting, as it made navigation of the site a little cumbersome. It wasn’t particularly easy to find the video feed of Vanderbilt-Stanford, at first. When I searched for “stanford,” here are the results I received (click, embiggen):

Note the lack of a video feed for Saturday, February 18 — despite the fact that I was pretty sure a video feed did exist. I then searched for “vanderbilt,” and then the video feed (curiously) appeared:

After clicking on the camera icon, the video feed began promptly, and without hardly anything in the way of stoppage or distortion. (It ran smoother, for example, than MLB.TV generally does on my netbook.)

Here’s a screencap of Stanford left-hander Brett Mooneyham delivering a pitch in the top of the third inning:

Having spent some time on Sunday watching the Florida International-Rice game, as well, I can say that, in terms of camera work, you can probably expect to be getting three main shots: one from over the pitcher’s shoulder (like the above), one from the press box area (generally used between innings), and another one down the first-base line (to capture batted balls). If camera coverage is a requirement for a viewer, he won’t be satisfied with these games. Beyond that — and for what it’s worth — I actually enjoyed the local commentators for both Stanford and Rice quite a bit. In two of the three games I watched there was just a one-man booth, and in both of those cases the commentary was better for its lack of network-style polish.

You’ll notice on the right side of the screencap above that ULive also provides a GameTracker. The one pictured above is only the “Lite” version. If you click on it, however, you are brought to the full version, which looks like this:

The full GameTracker is pretty valuable for any viewer who’s unfamiliar with certain of the players — or entire teams — in the game, and actually proceeds almost entirely in real time, with batter names and game statistics.

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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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Mr. Observant
Mr. Observant
4 years 6 months ago

Carson – is this the first article to fulfill the original mandate of NotGraphs, ummm, ever? A very interesting and thorough read…