Archive for November 5, 2013

EddieLacy_crop_northThis season marks the first time since I was an undergraduate in the 1990’s that I have not watched the NFL live on Sky Sports on a Sunday, for 1pm and 4.15pm EST kickoffs.

For my birthday I was fortunate enough to get an NFL Gamepass subscription, meaning I would be watching the bulk of my live game experiences in either my iPhone, my wife’s iPad or a laptop computer.

This has been a double win in my household as I have managed to avoid watching the UK Sky Sports NFL presenters Kevin Cadle (former basketball coach) and Neil Reynolds (former player in England and author of an NFL related book) who are not exactly the most dynamic duo. (I have no idea who the guest presenters have been this year, but in previous years they have been the only reason I have stayed with Sky as my viewing platform of choice.

Former British American Football legend Mark Cohen, coach of many different teams Jeff Reinbold and former Philadelphia Eagles fullback Cecil Martin have all been terrific behind the desk.)

The other win has been the brownie points I have won with my wife as she can watch the likes of Strictly and X-Factor on the main tv, instead of an NFL game that has no relevance or interest to her whatsoever.

So how has the coverage been online? Not perfect to be honest. For many of the early Sunday kickoffs the quality of the viewing has not exactly been HD, instead ranging from good to fair, to pixellated, to a black screen saying that video quality not good enough to stream live (but with the audio continuing).

By the time the second batch of Sunday games are on the quality of streaming seems to significantly improve, and I have moved from watching the game on a laptop in the living room to an iPad in the spare bedroom so my wife can get her sleep in the pitch black.

There are some major benefits to having NFL Gamepass which include;

  • Knowing you have an archive of games to view at your leisure, meaning you don’t have to suck the life out of your Sky+ box’s memory. Every NFL fan with Sky+ knows how frustrating it is that an NFL game recorded in HD can take up to a 10th of the box’s memory, especially as you always have to record the show after in case there is overtime or lots of additional time added due to a lengthy injury.
  • The condensed game feature is a revelation. Being able to sneak in a full three and a half hour game in 35-40 minutes, with no advert breaks by 9.00am before I get to work on a Monday and Tuesday is something I am really enjoying. I can get on the train, watch 15-20 minutes of uninterrupted game coverage, get into Birmingham city centre, grab a coffee and watch the second 15-20 minutes and still get into work well before 9 o’clock. This is a real bonus if it is either a game that you have little interest in as a fan, or if you want to see for yourself your fantasy players performances without having to watch a pre-game discussion or a half-time show.
  • Archived Redzone. Now I have to be fair Sky did introduce NFL Redzone as an interactive viewing option a few seasons ago, but this was just a direct feed. When you watch Redzone on tablet or laptop you can keep track of game scores, track stats and even re-live the whole experience whenever you like.
  • Permanent access to NFL Network and archive of NFL Network shows. I have to confess I have not taken full advantage of this feature, as I do not watch NFL Network every day. Being a dad of a two-year old my only man-time is around 9.45pm – 11pm to watch what I want, and after long days I prefer to watch some comedy on Dave or Pawn (that’s P-a-w-n) Stars on History. Sometimes the likes of an ‘in-your-face’ Warren Sapp can be a bit much when you want to relax.

So what are the not so good aspects of being in England and watching NFL Gamepass? Well the positives far outweigh the negatives but there are a few niggles.

  • No live playoffs. This is the biggest downfall. As Sky has the rights to broadcasting the NFL playoffs, these are not accessible on Gamepass. I am going to have to see if I can get a one month trial from Sky as I can’t be without live playoff coverage.
  • Blacked out games. Similar to the playoffs, as Sky broadcast two live games on Sunday these are blacked out as live games on Gamepass. There is a simple way around this though. Sky have not managed to get the NFL to stop the Red Zone coverage of the games they show exclusively live. So as long as you are prepared to watch all red zone opportunities from the games on at a particular time slot you will not miss out watching the team you support from hitting paydirt.
  • Poor live streaming. As I have experienced, and this may not be the case for everyone, I have has some pretty poor live streaming since the season began. All archived footage has always streamed in HD so it’s not all bad.

If you have made it this far you are probably wondering why there is a picture of Green Bay Packers rookie running back Eddie Lacy at the top of this post. Well in my eyes he is symbolic of my rookie NFL Gamepass experience to date – so far so good, alongside some dodgy bits (his first few games / my bad streaming experience), but a huge amount of potential to set the world on fire.