Point by Point: So how was your Week 1 go90 experience?

Dan Lauletta and Allison Lee April 17, 2017 28

NWSL on go90Saturday’s opening of NWSL season number five came complete with the debut of a national game of the week on Lifetime as well as the new streaming arrangement with the go90 app. The Lifetime rollout and execution received rave reviews. The go90 experience? Not so much.

Dan Lauletta and Allison Lee discuss their experiences and the tone around NWSL after Week 1.

Let’s start with the good. How was Week 1 for Lifetime?

Dan: All signs point to spectacular. The production value was off the charts and they absolutely rolled out all the bells and whistles to make this thing look like the legitimate sporting event that it was. No more of ESPN or FS1 squeezing the match into a spare window, signing on with a quick hi, and then showing the match like it’s an inconvenience before quickly signing off. Lifetime wants to be there and it showed.

{CURREN:  NWSL Week in Review — don’t get complacent}

Allison: Admittedly I am not a fan of pregame shows and usually only tune in for kickoff. Being the first Game of the Week, I was interested to see what Lifetime would put out as far as a pregame show goes, so I tuned in. I have to say, not only was I not disappointed, but I was extremely impressed. Having Julie Foudy and Sunil Gulati both there lent more credibility to the occasion, which, as Dan said, is not something fans are used to for a regular season match. The pregame video package with Allie Long was also a nice touch, and having a commentary crew that knows the game made for a broadcast with very few hiccups. All in all, this was by far the best-produced regular season game the league has ever had broadcast, and I’d argue it was even better than some finals as well.

The go90 rollout seemed to have some hiccups. What was your experience?

Allison: I’m one of the few NWSL fans who had used go90 prior to the announcement, although only for a couple of games, which I think helped with my overall go90 experience. I knew what to expect, unlike some other fans, so the transition from YouTube to go90 was pretty smooth for me. I did go out and buy a Chromecast so I could cast the games from my cell phone to my TV, which also helped. For the most part my experience on Saturday was fine. I thought the graphics during the match were very professional and a nice addition, and the quality of the streams seemed at least on par with the best quality streams we had gotten on YouTube. I did think the slow motion replays of big plays near goal left a lot to be desired since they were often too blurry and had the ball out of frame due to the tight camera angles. As for Sunday, well…anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that my experience with go9o for the FCKC-Boston match was much different, but thankfully the league and go90 fixed the commercial break issues before the end of the first half.

Speaking of Twitter, since there was a considerable lag between the actual game and the stream, I was usually a couple minutes behind the live game. As a result, I had almost every big play ruined for me by social media. Either international fans whose streams were ahead of mine or the team’s Twitter accounts would comment on goals or key saves well before the ever showed up on my screen.

Dan: Since the late announcement about this deal did not afford me the time to go out and buy a Chromecast, I was at the ready with my iPad for the start of the Dash game. I’ll be taking whatever measures I can this week to try and never have to use go90 again. For starters, the app is not user friendly. Favoriting NWSL does little good because only newly posted content makes it to the favorites page. Navigating around the app is not easy and if you leave, returning to that game takes you to the start. That wouldn’t be so bad if navigating around the game was anything less than maddening. At one point when I backed up the stream and returned to live action I was rewarded with a commercial. Quality was YouTube standard or better as Allison said but having gotten a look at what the overseas fans are getting on their desktops there is no comparison. The once anxiety-ridden international fans now have the best seat in the house.

Allison’s point about Twitter is not insignifigant. Twitter and social media is the lifeblood of WoSo fandom and it would be a shame to chase fans into hiding while matches are going on. But if the streams don’t catch up that’s exactly what will happen.

How would you judge the overall fan reaction to the new streaming arrangement?

Dan: Building on the answer above, it is interesting that it seems everyone had slightly different experiences whether it be which stream quality or archive access or any number of other things. It is also important to note that if 10 people love something and 10 people hate something, we’re far more likely to hear from the ones that hated it than the ones that liked it. That said, the reaction has not been stellar. If I weren’t covering the games and fully dedicated to a hard follow of the league I would have tuned into the Lifetime game and tuned out of the rest of the weekend. I know some fans have already done the same. That’s a shame. But to actually answer the question, the public reaction has been more negative than positive, and the positive crowd is not exactly rushing in to defend the league or the app.

Allison: I think everyone was expecting there to be glitches with opening weekend streams, especially with how close to actual kickoff the streaming deal seemed to be put in place. Some fans were more understanding of those glitches, while others were not, and the fan reaction I saw was mostly negative. Personally I think it’s a very bad look on the league when fans, players and even NWSL coaches are taking to social media to express dissatisfaction with streaming, as they did during Sunday’s FCKC vs Boston match. I think most people I know ditched the go90 streams and used a VPN to watch from the NWSL site because of the issues. I have also heard today, a couple days after the first games aired, that fans who were unable to watch all of the games (since some games overlapped and, unlike YouTube, go90 does not allow you to stream multiple games at the same time without multiple devices) are currently unable to access Saturday’s games because they can no longer access them via go90 but they have yet to be archived to the NWSL site. Everything taken into consideration, fans don’t seem thrilled with streaming for the opening weekend.

All of the broadcasters for the streamed matches were in Florida. Was this an issue?

Allison: Personally I didn’t notice it too much, although there were times you could tell the play-by-play announcer could not see where a play originated because it happened off-screen. Being unable to fully call a play, especially one that results in a goal, is a major flaw of this broadcasting system. Since I have been unable to watch all of this weekend’s matches for the reason given above, the biggest issues I encountered with the broadcasters were them misidentifying players or mispronouncing their names and the sheer amount of commentary given during some broadcasts. I honestly muted one of the games because of how much commentary there was during the game. Hopefully those complaints will fade as the broadcasters get more settled into their new roles.

Arin Gilliland (right) was subbed off at halftime, a fact missed by the offsite broadcast team on go90 (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

Arin Gilliland (right) was subbed off at halftime, a fact missed by the offsite broadcast team on go90 (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

Dan: This is not meant as a slight toward any of the specific broadcasters, and I tend to nitpick a lot where this is concerned, but I could tell and didn’t like it. Allison already touched on misidentifying players or in some cases just not identifying, them which is almost certainly a product of not being on site. There was also disconnect with injuries and substitutions. Can this be fixed? I’m not sure. This far from the only broadcast venture in which the talent is off-site. There are very likely more benefits to the arrangement than drawbacks. And they deserve a few weeks to iron out some of the rough spots. The broadcasters though, were solid for the most part.

It’s only been a week, but how do you see Lifetime and go90 impacting the league in both the short and long term?

Dan: Short term there has been some damage because the hurried roll out of the go90 platform combined with the inevitable Week 1 glitches has already chased some people away. And if the league’s biggest fans have to jump through hoops just for a satisfactory viewing experience, how will NWSL ever attract new fans? Lifetime will serve that purpose so long as they can reach the right audience, but the league went from being the only one in North America to offer all games streaming cost and hassle free to the only one with no ability to watch the (non-nationally televised) games on anything larger than a tablet. Jonathan Tannenwald reported over the weekend that Verizon paid a rights fee to put the matches on go90. I’ll never tell anyone to turn a blind eye at a pile of money, but it remains to be seen if NWSL sold too much of its soul for an immediate windfall.

Allison: I’m honestly afraid the two may cancel each other out. The Lifetime bit of the deal was huge and, as I previously said, I thought they did a top-notch job with the Game of the Week broadcast. Hopefully that did bring in some new fans who will stick around and continue checking out the league. Now, will that be as effective during the stretches where we see the same team play over several consecutive weeks? Time will only tell, but I think the Lifetime aspect of broadcasting is not one we need to worry about at the moment. Go90, on the other hand is. The lack of accessibility it affords viewers has already cost the league some of its most loyal fans. Although money coming into the league in return for exclusive streaming rights does help the league financially, I don’t think that’s enough to justify the change to a less accessible streaming platform. As I said in a previous article outlining drawbacks to go90, you can’t grow the game if fans can’t—or won’t—watch the game.

  • guest

    the sky blue vs seattle announcer said carson pickett was making a throw-in and i’ll give you ten seconds to figure out why that’s the dumbest thing ever said during an nwsl play-by-play

    • William

      I would agree, for obvious reasons.

  • guest

    I enjoyed watching SydLeroux fight for Christen Press’ job again

  • Lisa

    I quite liked the lifetime game & watched that one on cable (or at least, through my cable access on my computer). It looked good, graphics were good, and I didn’t feel compelled to mute it. (I had to mute the FCKC Boston game)

    For all the other streams, I think I managed to try out just about all the possible ways to watch that don’t involve android or iOS devices.

    For the live games, the best result was by using VPN on the nwslsoccer.com page (though the web page design is finicky as heck with the video player – scroll just a smidge and who knows what story you end up on). I then used miracast or an hdmi cable to display the game on a TV. I also tried this approach on my phone and it was not so good. The webpage with video is really not mobile optimized and my streams never buffered. I got the lifetime game going okay, but I have proper access to Lifetime.

    To watch replays I had to come up with go90 access. First I tried bluestacks on my laptop. I have never been a fan of bluestacks. I could get the app on there fine, and the streams worked, but I had no access to video controls. Tried various display scalings and it would never show up. So I had no way to navigate to when the game play actually started – and then the app seems to have no way to rewatch from the beginning.

    My better go90 option was from a sideload on my kindle fire. I could then project that using miracast to my TV. The stream was decent quality, color was washed out, status bars stay showing top and bottom of screen, but I at least had navigation control. For a TV that didn’t have the miracast option, I actually first projected my kindle to my Surface, then plugged that into the TV via hdmi.

    As for the quality of the commentary from afar … FFS learn how to say the players names. That’s my biggest issue. Though I think this remote commentary is possibly responsible for the bizarre player announcements at the Reign game. Loud speaker guy did all the intros 10 minutes before the players were back on the field .. it was very meh. I like the player introductions on the field, I think it adds a little pregame excitement and fan engagement.

    • ted norberto

      Wow! It sounds like you’re building a space shuttle. Growing pains, I guess. I used a magnifier to watch on my iPhone. LOL.

      • Breakers fan

        Your sentence after “Wow!” is one of the funnier things I’ve ever read on here.
        That said, I am as impressed with Lisa’s tech-know how as you are! I on the other hand didn’t/don’t know what a router is, so the contrast is particularly striking when reading her post.

        • Lisa

          all my vices are devices … just not google or apple ones 😛

          • Breakers fan

            That’s up there too for humor here! TYVM.

          • Ron Rocha

            Soccer fans are really special. I can’t think of another venture where the customer would go through so much trouble to continue to use the product.

          • Breakers fan

            Well-said Ron. I agree. We’re not easily dissuaded.

    • Terry Lash

      I also could not watch any replay of games using go90. Supposedly they will be available soon on NWSLSOCCER.com

  • Ron Rocha

    I had a VPN from when I was spending a lot of time in motels while buying a house and moving so I watched the International feed. The Dash game had problems and the best I could get was just below HD. The Spirit game was was an excellent feed as was the Seattle and KC games. I used a HDMI cable to connect my lap top to the TV and that worked nicely. I saved the Lifetime game until Sunday day before the KC game as it was to be the first archived and I could get it on the TV with ROKU. I thought all the games were excellent and entertaining. I also paid $9 a month with first month free to watch the Chelsea game this morning. Sure was easier…

  • Gary Diver

    Numbers Matter

    “As I said in a previous article outlining drawbacks to go90, you can’t grow the game if fans can’t—or won’t—watch the game.”

    No truer words have been said. NWSL needs increased visibility and increased fan support. Anything that reduces both will hurt the league. Losing any loyal fans is bad and losing a large number of loyal fans will be catastrophe. NWSL needs to determine how many fans from last year are unhappy with their current streaming experience. Not caring about numbers is the playing the ostrich, which rarely ends well.

  • smallchief

    The lifetime broadcast was excellent. One suggestion: in Portland tune down the crowd noise a bit. I couldn’t hear the announcers. Don’t get me wrong. Portland is wonderful for atmosphere. The best. But quiet it down just a bit so we can hear the play by play.

    Re Go90, I have only a desk top computer and there appears no way I can watch a game on Go90 without buying some piece of equipment which I don’t know how to use and don’t want to learn how to use. So, go90 is non-existent in my life — and will remain that way.

    How about going back to youtube for non-televised games? That worked fine for me. And you can sell commercials on youtube also.

  • Ashley C

    I was in Toronto on Saturday and ended up using the NWSL app which worked well. When I got home on Sunday I watched via go90. Aside from the commercial issue (which they tweeted they were aware of) I thought it all went well for the first weekend.

  • Jim Horlan

    I guess the best compliment I could pay Lifetime is that I didn’t notice that they were novices at covering soccer (I’m unclear, have they covered sports period before?). Having Aly Wagner, very familiar from WC coverage 22 months ago helped a lot. I already had this season put into my DVR, and they did nothing to make me regret. Looking forward to a great season.

    I’m visually impaired, so watching anything but a cat video or Instagram live on my phone is going to problematic, so I doubt i’ll try go90, but I’m glad it’s there for other fans.

    • Terry Lash

      You could use Chromcast with your phone to put games on your TV screen.

  • Jacky

    So everyone watching on Lifetime already has cable? Not sure why this wasn’t thought out since millennials are cord cutters. Is there something I am missing?

    • Terry Lash

      Yes. I do not have cable. I use a Roku instead. I subscribe to Sling and receive all of the sports programming available, which includes Lifetime.

      • guest

        I use the Amazon Fire Stick and subscribe to Sling. I wish go90 was available on Sling. Then it would be easy to watch go90 NWSL games as well as Lifetimes games on my laptop, on my (Amazon) tablet and on my TV. But what I really wish is that we could all watch every NWSL game on the NWSL website.

        • Terry Lash

          I agree with you. But what I don’t know is the amount of the licensing fee paid by Verizon. Maybe it’s enough to justify the inconvenience. The answer might be to obtain a VPN in order to use the NWSL web site for all games except the Lifetime broadcasts.

  • Rdalford

    Not happy with go90
    in prior seasons whether traveling and attending games and/or at home always had multiple ways to access games on YouTube (pc, laptop, tablet, phone, smart TV etc) and with lap top could even keep multiple windows open to follow multiple matches.

    attended Washington Spirit v NC Courage match in person and tried using go90 on phone to watch Houston v Chicago – watching soccer on phone’s small screen just doesn’t work well visually for me.
    Tried go90 again for Seattle v Sky Blue match from hotel )with extra cost “better” wifi but still find phone screen too small for actually watching the game.
    Tried go90 again for FCKC and Boston (ads playing instead of game – I gave up)
    Still traveling (will be attending Orlando Pride match on Saturday) and frustrated that there is no effective way to view full match replays on laptop (much less on TV)

    again in contrast to the prior YouTube solution -which allowed me to watch matches and replays on multiple platforms and often on large screen TV – go90 is not satisfactory for me.

    In past seasons I would normally attend 1 match live and also be able to watch other matches (or at least full replays) so normally was able to watch most games (some as replays) each week and could always watch full replays on laptop or my TV screen.

    I am a fan of NWSL soccer teams and players and enjoy watching the games (especially enjoy watching on large screen with access to controls like with YouTube)
    still a fan of NWSL teams and players – but unhappy/dissatisfied with go90.

  • CJameson

    The production quality is still a struggle. The over worked camera angles just kill the viewing experience for me. During the FCKC game the player in me just wanted to yell at the camera operator “STOP ball watching”. The camera seemed to focus in so much on the player with the ball that the flow of the game was lost. 90% of the game is played off the ball and when you cut out all view of the off ball movement the viewer misses the flow of the game. Why focus in on only the corner spot during a corner kick? All of the action is taking place in front of the goal and we didn’t get to see it until the ball was played in. Same on restarts and throw ins, just focused in on the ball until it was played in. They should watch a few EPL or MLS games and see how soccer should be broadcasted. Or even watch a Portland Thorns game because those have been pretty good.

  • Robert Marley

    I watch a lot of soccer. Every weekend at work the EPL gets pulled up on my tablet to watch, plugged into a stereo to hear it. Is it perfect, no. But I’m at work, that’s should be expected. When I come home at 2 it’s time for French league. A firestick in my tv for that. Last year if my family and I weren’t at a game (the spirit are closest to us) we had NWSL on YouTube all of the time on the tv. Didn’t matter the game, second were watching one. This year, one NWSL game was watched in this house. It’s more aggravating because we will be attending less spirit games because of thier pricing issue and basically anger at the decisions made by the club during the offseason. I’m disappointed. That’s the only word I can use about this season. If this was a plot to make people buy more game tickets, it failed.
    Buy the way, who’s awesome idea was it for them to start Easter weekend? Big fail.

  • guest

    Agree NWSL sold its soul to the devil for a pile of cash. Last year we had the free, universal, on demand app known as youtube and this year it’s been replaced by Verizon’s proprietary app which requires: a smartphone with a data plan, a chromecast device, a TV with an HDMI port, and unlimited high speed internet (or a pile of cash), and since not everyone is able to clear these hurdles, or even wants to, the NWSL shouldn’t be surprised if their internet audience shrinks this year.

  • I’m extremely disappointed and frustrated at this point.

    I was all hyped up for the first week of the season and I have yet to be able to watch a single game from Saturday in its entirety. It’s now Wednesday, so that’s a 5 day drought of NWSL coverage for me.

    I had visitors in town this weekend and was at a family member’s house on Saturday. Turned on Lifetime to at least have the game on in the background. Unfortunately, DirectTV satellite interference meant the game cut in and out and I couldn’t really follow along. At least that’s just a Week 1 issue since when I watch at home on Google Fiber I shouldn’t have that problem.

    I generally watch every match of the season, or at least the first half of the season. In the past I stream some games live and watch others from my desktop at work on Monday and Tuesday.

    I couldn’t watch the games live this week. Like I said, visitors in town, holiday weekend, plus I’ve never used go90 and didn’t have time to try it out for Saturday’s matches.

    I attended part of Sunday’s match before having to leave for Easter dinner. Now my visitors have all gone home, I’m back at work and think I can watch all the matches I missed. Nope. Not a single match from this weekend is online at go90 OR nwslsoccer.com. I tried a VPN, too, but I guess they only had the matches live???

    What good is ondemand if the matches aren’t available 5 days later? Were they available the next day or two days later, but were taken down? Were they never uploaded at all for non-live viewing?

    Yes, part of the viewing/scheduling issues were on me, but I’m still pissed that I haven’t been able to watch and matches yet. It is now closer to week 2 than week 1; will we have the same issues? I suppose I had better jump on the Chromecast bandwagon so I can watch the games on my TV, but just on principle I really don’t want to. They should be making it easier for us to watch this league, not harder.

  • I’ve miraculously managed to avoid seeing any games scores in anticipation of being able to watch the matches today. No such luck, I guess. I’m now very behind on EQ news by trying to avoid being spoiled, but since it doesn’t seem I’ll be able to watch any of the Week 1 matches I guess it’s time to give up.

  • FlyingSquirrel42

    Seems to me that “U.S. fans have to watch on their phones unless they buy an extra gadget” should have been a disqualifier.