Run of Play: Technical Difficulties

Chelsey Bush May 17, 2017 34
NWSL games will now be available on the go90 platform via app and desktop

NWSL games will now be available on the go90 platform via app and desktop

It’s been five weeks, and it’s time to say it: this streaming deal stinks.

This weekend the NWSL streams decided it was time for something completely different and gave up entirely. After half an hour of a blank screen instead of the Orlando-North Carolina game, the powers that be finally relented and allowed American viewers access to the stream that was already in place for international viewers via the NWSL website. When the Chicago-Boston game had the same problem, it too was switched.

Some might say this was the final straw in a deal that’s been a mess from the start.

THE ROLLOUT

Prior to the beginning of the current NWSL season, we learned that the Youtube streams we’d grown accustomed to were a thing of the past. And oh, how we rejoiced. No more squinting at blobs of color! No more announcers reaching new decibel levels! No more frozen screens!

So we waited. And waited. And then we waited some more. Finally, on the eve of the season, a groundbreaking deal with Lifetime was announced for three years of television coverage. After only getting a handful of games each season on television, we were now going to get a game every week. Great! What about the rest of the games?

Hurry up and wait, the league said. Be patient. It’ll be worth it. You won’t be disappointed. Finally, with zero time remaining (two days before the opening match), it was announced that all non-Lifetime games would be streamed exclusively via Verizon’s Go90 app. International streams would be available on the league’s website. It took an extra week before the games were available on go90’s website as well.

Public opinion on the streaming deal was doomed from the start. It simply took too long to announce, leading to ill-informed rumors and dire predictions. Before we ever downloaded the Go90 app, we were soured.

{Related: Lee: NWSL missed the mark with Go90}

QUALITY

It’s bad.

Not a gameday goes by without a stream flashing random black or green screens. The wrong team’s graphics come up when lineups are announced. Video disappears, leaving viewers and sometimes even announcers literally in the dark. Streams are swapped between games without notice, and at the worst possible times, too. And we won’t even get into the app’s shortcomings that make replays more trouble than they’re worth.

When they work, the quality is fine. We could get nitpicky and talk about the glare of the turf in Boston or the poor angles in Washington that cut off near corners, but that’s a venue issue, not a streaming problem. It’s when the streams don’t work, whether that’s bizarre flickers or a nonexistent stream entirely, that’s the problem. And it’s a problem that occurs too often.

{Related: So How Was Your Week 1 Go90 Experience?}

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

It’s hard to believe that expectations which were comically low to start with have been dropped, but that’s the case. Go90 has become a running joke. A common suggestion is to use a VPN to access the international streams. Quite frankly, that’s ridiculous. If it’s easier to jump through hoops and skip the domestic streaming mechanism, why does that mechanism exist at all?

The NWSL gets the lion’s share of the blame, and while that’s probably unfair – it really should rest on Verizon as the creator of the app and Vista Worldlink, who actually produces and streams the broadcasts – it’s just how it is. It was the league’s choice to partner with Go90, and it’s the league who is getting hurt by it.

If I didn’t need to watch games to cover them for the media, or I wasn’t a big fan to begin with, there is no way I would put up with this mess. If I’m a casual soccer fan who was told by a friend to tune into Orlando versus North Carolina because it was going to be a banger of a game (and it was), and I saw the technical difficulties screen, I’d tune out after 30 seconds. Fan lost.

Not only is the streaming situation pushing loyal fans to their breaking point, it’s not growing the fan base at all, and it’s hurting the brand. We have been patient, it’s not worth it, and we are disappointed. Fix the streaming.

{Read More: Mother’s Day with the Roccaros | Non-Allocated players form Association}

  • plasticbike

    all of what you just said…

  • Steglitz49

    BBC2 transmitted the ladies FA Cup Final with aplomb. The commentary was great and the pictures top notch.

    • Steglitz50

      were all of the other WSL and cup matches streamed?

      • disqus_hj8dHnhlYK

        Oh my God. There’s two of you?!

        • Steglitz49

          There is only one S49. The others are counterfeits and copycats. Shun them! They should be weeded out. They add no value.

          • StegIitz49

            No! Shoot HIM! HE’S the fake!

          • Steglitz49

            S49 has been hacked. Worrying that Putin and his cronies take WoSo so seriously.

          • dw

            oh no, not bizarro steg…

          • mockmook

            ALL stegs are bizarro stegs…

      • Steglitz49

        You get what you pay for.

        They used to be on a subscription channel but for key dates, like the final of the season a couple of years ago when several teams could win the FAWSL, the matches were shown free of charge.

        In the end Liverpool Ladies won while Chelsea, who were expected to win, went out to Man City or Everton. The main commentary bunch was at Chelsea’s game but they had cameras and staff at all the other key matches. I don’t know who sponsored it but I guess that the FA defrayed the shebang.

  • onkiovtuen

    Not to mention that if you try to Chromecast the slider will not work — so if you glitch, you have to start the game again at the beginning. If that’s not an option, you can go back to mobile’s small screen and the slider sorta kinda works.

  • mark parsons
  • vista worldlink

    should be looking at vista worldlink, which handles the on-site production, first-mile transmission, studio switching, stream commentary, and distribution to go90 and simplestream/nwslsoccer.com as much as (or more than) go90. all of this stuff starts at vista. http://imgur.com/a/hvoNT

  • dw

    Strange, but my experience has been the opposite. I was pleasantly surprised to find that reports were wrong, and games were not only watchable by phone only.

    I thought video and audio quality was good, and I watched one of the most entertaining games in a while, Spirit 4-3 SkyBlue.

    I was not watching this weekend, except for the Lifetime game.

    In general, I have not had any of the problems reported in this article, and have probably watched portions of somewhere between 6 and 10 games. And I will go back and forth between games being played simultaneously. And I DID experience all the reported problems with the YouTube streams in previous seasons.

    And I also had low expectations, but would say that the go90 experience has been at least as good as the YouTube experience. And this is only the 2nd month for go90, IIRC early on the NWSL streams were terrible as well…

    And in general, I’m probably not known for being the most positive guy on these boards. It would be easy to pile on, but this seems like a personal vendetta piece to me. Which is VERY unusual for EQU, the NWSL propaganda machine.

    But hey, I have to give them credit for voicing a non-party-line opinion.

    Propaganda score here: 0/10

    • Andy

      I’ve ran into all the issues mentioned. It’s terrible! I was wondering how long media would let it go without devoting an article to what I call the biggest NWSL mistake to date. I really enjoy watching NWSL games. I’ve still watched about 3/4 of them. I only haven’t watched all of them because of how much of a pain it is now.

    • jay

      i have encountered every single one of those problems. i now just wait for the highlights on the nwsl twitter feed and then wait a day to watch it on go90 although it’s not as enjoyable watching a rebroadcast.

    • Silver Frost

      Other than a few freeze-ups, I’ve had no problems watching from the NWSL website. I use Opera with VPN. The quality of stream is HD, true HD. Much better than U-tube.

    • I’ve had all of these issues. Since the beginning of the league I’ve watched 90%-100% of the games each year. This year I’ve seen less than 20%. The streams just never work. The matches are hard to find on go90, and not being able to pause, rewind, fast-forward makes it nearly impossible to watch replays.

      I used to catch up on all the games by Tuesday of each week, but the desktop version of go90 sucks. I will say one positive thing is that (since week 2) I have been able to stream live games easily from my phone to my TV, but that is only because I have Google Fiber and go90 is compatible with google products. But you have to start streaming at the very beginning of the game for it to work well.

      If all the games were at different times and I could watch them live it wouldn’t be so bad, but I usually only get to watch one live and have to watch the others from a desktop PC after they’ve been uploaded. That has been 20 times worse than YouTube ever was.

      I’ve also tried the VPN NWSL website trick. Most of the time it hasn’t worked for me and I’ve used 3 different VPNs. The games are difficult to find on the NWSL site. I finally found out that you have to click on the game score for the match video to load, but then that spoils the outcome of the match, so it’s pretty dumb.

      • Use Opera browser it has functions of VPN and all you need to do is Open it. Select a country and watch the games

  • ZedZero

    The Saturday afternoon time slot in the summer is the Siberia of television. You’ll not grow your ratings there, and then it is one game jumping from team to team, so scratch fan loyalty off your list of attractions.
    The only thing worse they could worse is play commercials during the game.
    Go90,”Hold my beer”.

  • smallchief

    I don’t think it’s been as bad as the article describes. But I was happy enough with youtube. After all, it’s free — and you get what you pay for. Right?

    • It is worse chief. We’re not complaining here and elsewhere just to do it. Sure some will be “lucky” but the whole issue of go90 and how bad it is is a reality.

  • Tania

    I can’t speak to the go90 issues, as I’m in Canada. I will say that as an international viewer, the Youtube quality stream was actually better for me than watching on the NWSL site. At least for the first few weeks I kept finding the stream would freeze.

    Admittedly, I’ve been busy & I haven’t watched any games from this past weekend, or the one before. So I will be trying it out today or tomorrow to check if those issues are improved.

    I’m also concerned about how good an archive they’ll keep on the site. With Youtube, I could go back and rewatch a game from months ago. I would like to keep that option. I think it helps with growing the league/fanbase.

  • Ron Rocha

    The neat part about the old slider…. When games are the same time you can start one and then pause it and open another window and watch the other and at the end of that game or any time later go back to the first game without waiting for the archive to be established. Of course that’s only if you don’t have a real life like me.

  • GT

    Off topic. The new NWSL website, in the “Stats” tab, I miss the “team page” that used to exist, where you could go and see the stats of all the players on that team in one place.

    • smallchief

      I miss the team summary also..

    • mockmook

      And. we used to be able to get all previous seasons.

    • guest

      Really nothing wrong with their stat page two years ago. Then last year they went to PDF format, which is great if you want a printed copy. Now, their website is graphics rich, but, ironically, difficult to look at, and not much fun, if you like stats and not just looking at pictures..

  • Jana Sheffield

    I experience freezing with both the Go90 website and the VPN workaround. Generally, Go90 has been the better option (except this past Sunday, obviously) as it will freeze for a couple seconds, then skip forward on it’s own, though I usually have to reload the page once or twice each game. The quality on Go90 for me is usually about 720p, with stretches of lower definition at times.

    With VPN + NWSL website, 1080p is possible, but I have to drop it to 720p or lower to reduce the frequency of freezing, which has been worse for me than on Go90. However, this Sunday, I of course went with this option and found that while the freezing was less frequent (3-4 times per game instead of every 5 minutes or so), each time required a reload of the page, then skipped a couple minutes ahead (revealing the lag in the stream). The worst of it was that I missed THREE goals in the ORLvNC game. My stream froze right before the scoring bonanza, so I left at 0-0, and when the page finally reloaded, the score was 2-1.

    I’ve heard suggestions that the problem may be on my end, and that’s a valid consideration since every program/service has minimum compatibility requirements. However, I stream games on ESPN3, BBC, Facebook Live, various college websites, and YouTube, and I don’t have any trouble with chronic stuttering, skipping, and freezing, and I’ve never had trouble using the maximum definition/quality available.

    I will acknowledge that I have had these problems when watching live programming through my Uverse online (my cable provider); because I use this so infrequently, I have not attempted to get to the bottom of that. However, I do not have any difficulties when watching On-Demand streaming with U-verse. However, my problems with the NWSL website streams are the same when watching replays. I’m constantly either reloading the page or clicking back or forward on the timebar to get the video going again.

    So after 4 weeks of giving the benefit of the doubt and trying to figure out how I could make myself more compatible (I’ve tried various browsers, turned off background apps, closed every window other than the game, and run speed tests), I agree that the quality is just bad. And yes, I actually miss YouTube (I held off jumping on that bandwagon as long as I could). Yes, they were fuzzy blobs, but at least they kept moving.

    I’ve been watching FA WSL games streamed live on BBC Sport (off-topic: if anyone knows how to view a calendar of upcoming streams and where to find them so I don’t rely on Twitter announcements that I could easily miss). And today I realized that one of the things I like best about their games is that I can actually watch them and get into the game without having to constantly interact with my tech.

  • William

    It was a poor choice for a streaming partner right from the get go but I didn’t think it would take this long to get the basic kinks worked out. Pretty big fail from all aspects of service from an end users standpoint. Come on, non-US viewers have had a better experience all the way from week one. I find it kind of sad, gotta take the good with the bad I guess.

  • guest

    Youtube hands down much better experience for me. What can you expect from go90 anyway? Their owner Verizon is losing subscribers at the rate of 300K per month, so they bought the NWSL streaming rights, no doubt at a pittance for them, in an attempt to bolster their customer base, but what do they know about streaming games? Not a lot, it turns out.

    To the critics of Youtube, there are many links in the streaming chain, and the stream is only as good as the weakest link, which probably isn’t Youtube, because they have state of the art equipment. Sure, I can live with go90 and put up with its technical problems (I haven’t had any luck with VPN’s) because I’m a dedicated fan, but what about the casual viewer?