PremierLeaguePass.com in Samsung Smart TV hook up

From MacBook to TV

KeallHauled

Chris Keall

UPDATE March 5: PremierLeaguePass will soon feature as an app on Samsung smart TVs.

The Samsung Smart TV app is scheduled for release before the end of the current English Premier League season.

The smart app means Samsung Smart TV-owning soccer fans will be able to watch the broadband-delivered PremierLeaguePass.com (which recently added a high definition streaming option) directly on their big screen, without any faffing around with wi-fi or HDMI cables to a laptop.

With the deal - which covers cames up to 2016 - Samsung becomes PremierLeaguePass' exclusive Smart TV partner (great for Samsung, if more limiting for the reach of PremierLeaguePass' owner, Coliseum Sports Media; earlier Coliseum CEO Tim Martin told NBR cost was a barrier to Smart TV apps. At anywhere from $50,000 to $80,000 a pop to develop for each brand of TV, it was not something the online broadcaster was about to fund itself).

PremierLeaguePass content will also be available, through the Samsung SportsFlow app, for Samsung smartphone and tablet users (PremierLeaguePass also has a generic Android app, plus an iPad app. A Coliseum press release says the Android app will only be available to new subscribers with a Samsung device; NBR has sought clarification).


Hands on with PremierLeaguePass - it just added HD, and got a whole lot better

Dec 24, 2013: This saga has a happy ending for football fans. On the morning of Christmas Eve, PremiereLeaguePass.com finally debuted a high definiition option (4500Kbit/s, meaning a 90-minute game takes around 3GB of data). 

It took a while, but they've finally cracked it.

The action is smooth, and the picture looks great. An HD stream is pretty demanding on bandwidth, so you'll need a pretty good internet connection - though not necessarily fibre or VDSL (the fastest type of copper broadband). I'm watched the debut HD game (Arsenel v Chelsea) on ADSL2+ (the most common type of copper broadband) and it worked fine. Or at least it did until someone else in my household started using the internet. If you're sharing, VDSL or fibre is better.

The new HD option is no-cost to existing subscribers.

Since NBR last checked in (below), PLP has also added iPad and Android apps, plus new payment options for those who're late to the party (HD streaming is not available for the Android app; PLP says many Android devices just don't have the grunt for HD video; the iPad app has a sniffer that servers the video stream at  between 4500Kit/s and 400Kit/s depending on your bandwidth. I'm annoyed I can't manually set it to 4500Kit/s HD as I can when accessing PLP via a web browser. The iPad app does feature AirPlay support for wirelessly  streaming PLP video to a TV, which is a bonus. You TV must have a $159 Apple TV widget attached to pull off this trick).

There's still a couple of annoyances, including the need to log-on every time, and the lack of an Apple TV app - but overall it's been great to see the PLP team listening to the crowd and working to improved its service. Good stuff.

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Hands on with PremierLeaguePass.com - not yet perfect pitch

Aug 4: I want PremierLeaguePass.com to succeed -  to demonstrate the potential of internet-delivered TV, and encourage Sky TV to get its A into G and beef up iSky.

LATEST: ASK ME ANYTHING: PremierLeaguePass.com boss Tim Martin

The new service, owned by $650 million NBR Rich Lister Peter Cooper's Coliseum Sports Media, went live on July 30 with some same video, and pre-season games offered ondemand (it will start streaming games as the English Premier League kicks off on August 18; all 380 will be offered over the internet, with free-to-air partner TVNZ broadcasting one game a week plus a highlights show).

Sky TV has spoiled the launch, a little, by announcing it will show delayed-coverage of games by three marquee Premier League clubs (Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United Spurs), and further complicating the landscape for soccer fans, new Freeview channel Sommet Sports has bagged delayed coverage rights for Chelsea and Liverpool.

Acting a little mischievous (or threatened), Sky forwarded around a link to a Stuff article that quotes a Geekzone discussion bagging the quality of PremiierLeaguePass.com video.

The trade-off for PremierLeaguePass.com offering all 380 games live (with available for 250 ondemand repeating viewing), is lower quality than Sky TV's HD.

I watched PremierLeaguePass on my Windows laptop at work on a fibre connection, and on a MacBook Pro at home over DSL. With the MacBook Pro, I also mirrored it on my regular television (a 50-inch plasma; the process was pretty simple given I have a $149 Apple TV widget attached to my TV; I just had to click the Air Play  icon on my MacBook's screen to make the video stream to the television. The various ways to get video from PC to TV are all pretty straightforward - but learning them is a minor hassle, and phrases like "mirroring" and "wi-fi" dongle cause some to be immediately put off).

Click any image to zoom.

The play bar appears or disappears when you mouse over it (or presumably with the coming iPad and Android apps, touch). It lets you live pause, rewind, split screen other games, or choose from four video streaming quality options: 3000Kbit/s (which I had it set to), 1600Kbit/s, 800Kbit/s or 400Kbit/s. You can also choose "Best available" and the software chooses for you. It's developed by NuLion in New York, best-known for NFL Pass.

Fast moving wide shots are where it's most obvious you're not watching HD -or anything close to it - but I never lost track of the ball.

I had a couple-three issues (keep reading) but for most part I found the quality fine. I would prefer if PremierLeaguePass did take up its option to offer a 4500Kbit/s stream as well (which should allow 720p HD), but when things are behaving it looked like standard definition video. Even with fast moving play I had no problem seeing the ball. I would be quite happy shelling over $150 if it was at that level all the time. (Coliseum CEO Tim Martin tells NBR a 4500Kbit/s could be added if enough fans demand it; start demanding.)

Three issues
The live pause and rewind features are handy, and you can split screen multiple games - a feature I can imagine some hardcore fans taking advantage of (if only for short bursts) once the season nears crunch time.

It's hard to convey the quality of the video (or otherwise) in stills, since that's not how you watch TV, and the images are compressed a little for display on this site, but still they provide a rough guide to I've included a few below.

I had three problems: 

1. While the video was fine at 3000Kbit/s (the highest of four video streaming quality settings),at times it seemed to chop right back to 800Kbit/s or 400Kbit/s and became very blocky for a couple of minutes. I've had no problem streaming HD video from iTunes on my very-average ADSL internet connection.

It often doesn't seem to hit the advertised 3000Kbit/s, evidenced by the fact if you chop back to the 1600Kbit/s option, there's no change in quality.

The problem with PremierLeaguePass.com seemed to be that the video wasn't caching (storing a few minutes of video on my hard drive so the video stream is on a slight delay that can allow for any hiccups in the broadband connection). A spokeswoman for Coliseum told me PremierLeaguePass is set to cache for up to a minute. Hopefully this will work more smoothly wants the season kicks off and streaming games are on offer.

[UPDATE: Internet streaming seems to remain a challenge in general, at least in the part of the world. On social media there were a couple of complaints about Sky TV's iSky cutting out at times during the Super Rugby final. "It was the slowest most disrupted streaming I've ever had on iSky," viewer Tommy Bates put it. A Sky TV spokeswoman told NBR there were some "buffering issues". Another viewer told NBR, "Anonymous source says: My iSky was so poor I turned it off. Five minutes later, Iwas watching rock solid (illegal) stream from the UK." Sky TV switched from Kordia to global operator Akamai for its broadband content delivery following the infamous blackout during the mens 100m final at last year's Olympics - but it seems to be a tricky beast this internet streaming.Or maybe everyone just needs to spend a few more dollars on it. Coliseum is also using Akamai for PremierLeaguePass].

2. The iPad and Android apps aren't live yet. "We are working on these Apps to go live before kick off," a spokeswoman said. That's cutting it fine with the season starting August 18, and Apple's approval process being open-ended. It's a pity since PremierLeaguePass.com and the apps offer one of the easiest ways to view games on a device, or with iPad (and an Apple TV wi-fi widet), one of the easiest ways to stream video to a regular TV.

3. The video on my TV stuttered or froze at times as I was streamng a game on PremierLeaguePass.com from MacBook to TV. This puzzled me. It has been an issue with iTunes movies or YouTube content streamed in the same fashion. It's probably something to do with my home's wi-fi setup rather than PremierLeaguePass - but that's the nature of wi-fi, it's prone to minor, infuriating glitches. Another option is to cable your laptop to your TV, but that's less convenient, and a bit naf. I don't want to have to kneel on the floor to reach for the keyboard and hit pause.

An explainer email sent to all PremierLeaguePass subscribers goes over a laundry list of issues that can affect video streaming quality, such as how many processes are running on your laptop at once. For me, it was possibly Adobe automatic updates butting in. Such is life when you're streaming from a PC, or viewing on a laptop - and it will be a life too complicated for many. The sooner PLP can get its iPad app approved, and its promised Apple TV app, the better.

So: there are a few issues, but most of them are resolvable. Fingers crossed.

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

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4 Comments & Questions

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It needs to be on Xbox/Apple TV for the normal punter, can't see it succeeding until it's a couple of button presses

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Coliseum says it would like to have an Apple TV app for PremierLeaguePass.com - although it won't be there until part way through this season, if it makes it in time for the 2013/2014 EPL.

Agree support across Xbox Live, PlayStation and all-comers would help.

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The launch of Premier league pass has both agitated and progressed the market. Accolades to them for bringing a credible internet broadcast platform to the NZ market. However I fear that they are in danger of alienating their core early adopter market and missing the early momentum that will be essential for their sustainable market success.

They really only need to correct a couple of things and they will win back the advocacy of these potential early adopters, but failing to listen seriously to this market feedback will rapidly lead them into an also-ran, niche player abyss.

These couple of things are;

1- Deliver the iOS and android apps with haste. These need to be quality apps. Doing this rapidly will remove a lot of doubt and complexity about viewing scenarios, its the simplest way to view and connect to a large screen TV in a post PC world.

2- Offer the HD streaming option immediately and make the announcement this week. This will remove a major frustration for early adopters and it will move the conversation on quality away from premier league pass and back to the standard of high speed internet delivery infrastructure in NZ. Let your audience figure out how to get the fastest internet connection and remove yourself as a bottleneck.

Fans are making choices now abut the coming season. Once the season starts it will be harder to win back those who have reconnected to sky and are enjoying the free to air TVNZ highlights shows.

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So other than it being stuttering, buffering, pausing, freezing and being a fairly low-quality picture it works great!
We all want it to work, and you are obviously very keen on the PLP project, but it clearly is not fit for purpose at this stage.

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