Consumer Watch: Fans on edge before kick off

By Susan Edmunds

As Premier League coverage moves online, picture quality is the main concern

Enzo Giordani says some viewers are upset at having to watch online. Photo / Michael Craig
Enzo Giordani says some viewers are upset at having to watch online. Photo / Michael Craig

It is less than a week until the first English Premier League games are broadcast live online instead of on Sky Sport - and some football fans are worried the quality of the picture will be too poor to enjoy.

Technology commentator Paul Brislen said because the broadcast, available from PremierLeaguePass.com run by Coliseum Sports Media, was not in high-definition, it would not be as good as watching a game on television.

"They're sending the feed out in a lower frame rate. So if you blow it up to your HD LCD TV, it looks rubbish. You can't see the ball, it blurs. It's HD or nothing, these days."

Podcaster Paul Spain agreed. "There is definitely room for improvement. People have high expectations after getting used to HD TV and Blu-Ray."

Games can be watched on a PC, Mac, tablet or through apps, which are awaiting approval from Apple.

Viewers will also be able to link their TVs to their computers with a cable or wireless network. The site is offering a test video that users can try before subscribing.

Coliseum is streaming video at 3Mbs, but most New Zealand connections can handle 5Mbs to 15Mbs, Brislen said.

Coliseum chief executive Tim Martin said his company had made it clear from the outset that it would not be screening the games in high definition at first. He said 4.5Mbs was a lot of data to send. When more people in New Zealand had faster internet connections, it might be possible to broadcast at a faster rate.

Sports bar owner Hamish Macpherson said the quality was good when video was run at the top end of specifications.

"The biggest challenge is making sure you have a consistent data stream. I'm working through that with my supplier. I may have to stream several games at the same time, which creates data issues."

Businesses such as bars and clubs are told to get in touch with Coliseum to organise a licence and any extra fees before they sign up.

Some older people had been concerned about the practical aspects of linking their TVs and their computers, Martin said.

"But they're braving it and confronting their fears. They've been ringing our call centres to ask and going into Noel Leeming to find out what they need."

Staff at Dick Smith shops said they had been visited by football fans wanting to connect their PCs to their televisions. Older computers were the biggest problem as they did not always have the right connections, one sales rep said. Noel Leeming said some customers had concerns but realised it was quite simple once it was explained.

Football blogger Enzo Giordani said he had seen a lot of online discussion from people annoyed at having to watch via the net.

"There are screeds of people whingeing about it. It's a combination of luddites and people who like whinging about technology not being good enough."

Spain said most new TV sets had connections for computers, and older models were usually hooked up to some sort of set-top box which would take an HDMI cable. Giordani said he had only had to buy a $6 cable to set his television up.

Other users, such as Christchurch man Reece Johns, had found they could not sign up because they had email addresses routed through the United States.

Johns said thousands of people must be in the same situation.

"I'm guessing that most people will create a Gmail or Hotmail account but it seems a bit odd that there are lots of people who will get this same message."

Martin said the company had to be strict because it was a service only for New Zealanders. "If it was accessible to the UK, we would have 10 million subscribers overnight."

He would not say how many subscribers Coliseum had.

Brislen said Coliseum was prompting a lot of people to reassess the technology in their homes, such as their modem or wiring. "Some people will be using the internet properly for the first time with this."

Spain said it was "necessary pain" that New Zealanders had to work through to keep up with the rest of the world.

PremierLeaguePass.com offers a "season pass" for $149.90, giving access to every EPL game. A $239.90 pass will add magazine-style shows. There is also a $24.90-a-day option.

- Herald on Sunday

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