As previously mentioned, I purchased access to the NFL Sunday Ticket this year. Last year this was offered as a stand alone purchase from DirecTV but this year I did not see this option available. For about $330.00 you could enjoy the frustration of streaming NFL games to your PC or PS3. From what I gathered, the PS3 option was sketchy at best for the first few weeks and problematic for the rest of the season. I got access to the 2013 season via the Madden Anniversary Edition and found my experience less than what I had hoped.
Let’s start with performance and then features. I have a MacBook Pro and have found it to be an unreliable steaming device for this service. However, my iPad running on the same router and Internet connection is far more reliable. I tried several times to watch games on my Mac using the Chrome browser only to have feeds stop at random times. There were also times when the audio and/or video became unintelligible for reasons unknown. Whereas my iPad would run the same content with little sacrifice. Sure, if I had other downloads or steams going quality suffered and I can accept that. Keeping my Internet activity to a minimum helped the experience but checking my fantasy scores is a must and if that interrupts the service then it just isn’t worth it. Forget steaming to the PS3. My guess is that this option died when the NFL named the Xbox as the official console of the NFL.
On to features, or the failing there of. On the basic level you have the option to watch in the following modes: fullscreen, standard, game mix, picture in picture, or darken. Fullscreen is self descriptive. Game Mix allows for choosing four games in the viewing window. Picture in picture allows for one game to show within another, again – very familiar. The darken option? I guess it darkens the picture but I don’t see a difference if it does anything. For whatever reason these options are mutually exclusive in my experience. If you or someone you know has gotten these to work in tandem then please let me know but I found that if I try to watch four games in the game mix mode I cannot put it in full screen mode without being reverted to only one game. Sure I can use the zoom features in my browser but I might be spoiled by my WatchESPN experience that allows me to box in four games on a full-sized screen. Do you think you can watch one game on your PC and another on your tablet? NOOOOO!!!!! Even trying to open the same account will get you complain mode telling to logout on the other device. Local games? Yet another NOOOOOO!!!!! Blackout rules are still in effect. Thursday games? Couldn’t get those either. Not available I was told. Didn’t bother with Sunday Night or Monday Night games but I just ass-u-me’d the same result. I thought this was a contractual thing they had worked out but I guess they didn’t.
Did they do anything right? Yes. A Raiders fan gets little opportunity to see his team outside of a Sunday Night, Monday Night, or featured game. Honestly though, I was happy to not see Oakland in the second Monday Night opening weekend double-header games. The Sunday Ticket access has let me see more of the Raiders than normal. When the Raiders were non-compelling, I still had options to watch other games. Having the Red Zone on a second screen is nice. I like seeing all the scoring plays and opportunities but I still prefer seeing the entirety and context of a full game. If the NFL and Comcast will come to terms to allow Red Zone streaming access I will find Sunday Ticket access much less useful.
The rest of the season lies ahead and I will evaluate accordingly. Performance thus far shows that I will not be interested if they offer Sunday Ticket service moving forward. One of my friends had DirecTV service and the free preview weekend he had seemed much more appeasable than what I have seen thus far. Maybe the full service is better as it apparently had a richer interface and access to games. I’ll never have this option as my apartment is not accommodating to satellite service.