Broadband the X factor for internet TV viewing

By Steve Deane

Viewers wanting to sign up for internet-based broadcasting can choose from a multitude of devices but their viewing experience will ultimately be dictated by the quality of their internet connection.

This week, online broadcaster Coliseum Sports Media won the rights to screen English Premier League soccer matches, topping bids from Sky TV and ushering in a new era for Kiwi sports fans.

Internet-capable "smart" TVs, or PCs and laptops connected to non-internet-capable televisions, can be used to watch online content on large screens.

Movies and sports can also be streamed to portable tablets and phones. However, regardless of the device, the strength of the viewer's internet signal will be crucial.

"Certainly the quality of the connection in the home does matter," Coliseum Sports Media chief executive Tim Martin said.

"The better the quality of the connection, the better the quality of the service. Having the right telco is going to be really important."

Technophobes have nothing to fear, according to Mr Martin. The technology is advanced but extremely simple to use.

"If you can use YouTube you can use this."

He was confident households with lower-capacity internet connections would still enjoy a high-quality viewing experience if they signed up for a package that includes live and on-demand access to all 380 English Premier League (EPL) games.

The level of demand was a big factor in the quality and stability of many household internet connections, and EPL matches all occurred outside of the peak usage time of between 6pm and 10pm.

While he was confident the company's investment in proven technology would limit teething problems, Mr Martin did not expect the service's launch to be totally trouble-free.

"The key message for us to get across is that this is where we are starting. As the technology improves and we improve we will constantly be developing. There are so many ways to do this stuff and we want to be at the forefront of it."

Coliseum's emergence and the move towards internet broadcasting has been touted as marking the beginning of the break-up of Sky's monopoly of premium sports content. But Sky's stranglehold on the market is not likely to be relaxed any time soon.

While international broadcasts are fair game, the pay TV broadcaster faces little competition for prime domestic sports where it produces the content, such as rugby, netball and league.

The bulk of Sky's rugby coverage is locked in to the end of 2015 through a contract with Sanzar to cover Super Rugby and Four Nations broadcasts. The company has signed a five-year deal to broadcast the NRL and V8 Supercars, and has existing deals to cover international netball and soccer. It is also in negotiations to screen the next Olympic and Commonwealth Games, but Wimbledon is the one event it won't be covering. The organisers will only sell broadcast rights to free-to-air networks.

Internet TV - the options

Smart TV: internet-capable televisions that connect directly to a household broadband connection via wireless or ethernet cable. Content accessed direct from website or app. Smart TVs cost from $1500 up.

PC or laptop to TV: Content accessed via a PC or laptop's internet connection is transferred to television screen via HD or VGA cables. Cost of laptops with HD ports starts at around $1000.

Apple TV: Device plugs into back of TV, connecting it to household Apple devices such as iPads and iPhones. Content transferred to TV via Apple's AirCloud system.

Direct to PC, iPad, tablet and smartphones: Content played directly on PCs and portable internet devices.

Sky TV sports contracts

Sanzar rugby: Super Rugby, Rugby Championship tests. Five-year deal expires end of 2015.

British and Irish Lions: 2013 tour.

NRL: Five-year deal expires end of 2017.

Netball: ANZ Champs deal expires end 2013, Silver Ferns end 2014.

V8 Supercars: Five-year deal expires end of 2017.

NZ Football: All Whites and Football Ferns. Six-month rolling deal, 14 matches between June and November.

Tennis: ASB Classic, Heineken Open. Five-year deal expires 2016.

Olympic Games: In negotiations.

Commonwealth Games: In negotiations.

- NZ Herald

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