It sounded like a dream come true for those of us outside the UK who can’t regularly make it down to St. Andrew’s on match day. For a fee, BluesTV would be streaming each and every game not picked up by the TV networks on their website. Seems perfect, right? Well, with Blues nothing is ever perfect.
A trial run that was free to all went south for the first preseason fixture, causing the team to hastily put the game up on YouTube. A few days later, fans also had complaints that the second preseason game wasn’t working either or for some worked, with no sound.
So if you haven’t been convinced yet, the question still remains; should you sign up for BluesTV? I signed up and watched the Oxford game to find out. Here’s how it went.
First off, there are still issues with trying to use the website and sign up for the service. Your experience will probably vary depending on your computer setup. I use a Mac with Google Chrome, and I missed the first 15 minutes of the game trying to give Blues my money. I signed into my account on the website, clicked on the link Blues provided to pay for the service, which directed me to a login page. The login page didn’t work even after resetting my password. Eventually I realized I should use the other browser I have, Safari, which did log me in and let me pay for a subscription. But then the video wouldn’t play. So I went back to Chrome and now that I had bypassed the paywall, I was able to get it streaming. The results other fans were having provided no evidence as to whether this was an issue with my setup or with the service overall.
One fan I talked to had no problem using Chrome…
Really? I just use chrome?
— Dalmar Ragnarsson (@DalmarBluenose) July 22, 2017
Another couldn’t get it working on anything…
Nope doesn't work on any browser so obviously an error in there somewhere, so gotta stick to hashtag commentary for second half
— Jak Collier (@Jak_Collier) July 22, 2017
So first off, it might be a gamble to try and get it to work. Personally, I paid for a one-month subscription to see how this all went before spending £110 for the whole season.
Once the stream was working, it was great to actually be able to watch Blues from the other side of the Atlantic. I’ve spent the last few years listening to commentary on the Blues Player, which was the team’s radio subscription service. It’s an enjoyable listen but personally, I can’t always find the energy to listen to something I can never watch (save for the odd game on Sky). It’s also impossible to make your own judgements on how the team is playing when you can’t see any of it for yourself. So when BluesTV was announced, I was ecstatic. After watching the game today, I’m still happy but there is a lot of room for improvement.
First and foremost, the streaming quality is good. If you’re going to offer streaming video in the YouTube-era, it better work well and at least in my experience it did. The stream didn’t freeze or lag for the entire 90 minutes. The quality of the video was nice and it also comes with a button to allow you to cast video to your TV using Google Chromecast (although I did not try to do this). To give you an idea of what it looks like, here’s a GIF I made of Che’s goal:
— Kevin Schultz (@BluesAbroad) July 22, 2017
The quality is better than this as the GIF was compressed for Twitter and for some reason tinted yellow (it did not look yellow on my screen).
In terms of the actual game presentation, it could be much better. At this early stage it’s fine, but there is room for improvement. There is only one camera angle, and there were no replays shown, so I have to assume they don’t have the capability at the moment to add cameras or replays. Understandable, but something to work for in the future. There are also no score overlays showing how much time has passed in the match or what the score is, so if you’re not following along on Twitter or somewhere else you won’t really know. On BluesTV, don’t expect anything like you might see on a TV broadcast.
One easy improvement would be to have the commentator mention the score and time more often. It seems like a score or time update came every 20 minutes or so. On Blues Player — probably because they were doing radio — they always said the score and time a lot. Also, I don’t actually know who the BluesTV commentator was, since I missed the first 15 minutes and they never said their name the rest of the game, so sorry for that, but they did a good job! They were a fine listen, knew the players and could describe what was happening well (except for the part where they didn’t realise for quite a while Tomasz Kuszczak had replaced David Stockdale at halftime, but we’ll chalk that up to preseason).
Another — I would hope — easy improvement would be to add a score overlay. I don’t know how these things are done so maybe it’s not my place to comment, but here in the US, even minor league hockey teams are able to do this on their streams. Really simple; put the score and time on the screen somewhere. Anywhere. In any font. In any language. Just please put it on there, somehow!
One of my biggest concerns going into this was the lag. Would the BluesTV stream keep up with the actual game action or would it be shown on a delay?
Sometimes when you watch an online stream – official or otherwise – there’s a delay between when something actually happens and when you’re watching it on the stream. I’ve watched games on stream that were a good minute or two behind what everyone was talking about on Twitter. The problem here is that if you’re reading Twitter or have score alerts set up on your mobile, you’ll know about a goal well before you see it happen on your screen. That doesn’t make a stream unwatchable, but it pulls the fun and surprise out of watching a live sporting event. I didn’t seem to notice any issues with this. When Che Adams scored in the 29th minute, I didn’t know it any sooner than Twitter did. I’m glad Blues were able to get this right.
A concern I have going forward is that the commentary on Blues Player always had some issues here and there, many times for away matches, where they would run into technical issues and miss entire halves of matches. It’s understandable that with so many different clubs and stadiums to travel to, each with their own unique setup, there can be issues. But I’m hesitant to expect that Blues will be able to successfully broadcast each and every away game. It’s a new service and issues can be expected, and I don’t think it’s unfair to say that there could be issues all year especially with what we’ve seen so far.
Going forward, I think that some small improvements can go a long way to making this a more useful and more entertaining service. As it stands with no replay, if you miss the goal, you miss the goal. The Blues website continues to be a mess depending on what your browser setup is, so allow plenty of time to sign up and expect that there will probably be weeks where something will go wrong.
Overall, I’d rate the BluesTV service 2.5 out of 5. It’s great to finally be able to watch Blues on Saturdays and the quality of the stream was good and lag-free. However, it’s really a no-frills, basic as you can get stream. There’s no replay, one camera, and no easy way to tell what the score or time is, which in the year 2017 is poor to be quite honest. The overall experience is similar to the highlights that Blues post on YouTube, with commentary added. If you have the money and really must watch Blues, I recommend it. If you’re going to be frustrated by any of the multitude of issues mentioned, you may want to wait and see if it improves later in the season.