Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: RedZone and Radio

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 9.28.2016

I cut the cord last November. While addicted to sports, it made little sense to pay Comcast $150+ a month so I could watch various college football games and receive NFL RedZone. I began looking into other options. I found Sling TV and a plain, old fashion over the air antenna. This is the football season where I will be a full fledged ‘sports cord cutter’ and this is how it’s going.

RedZone and Radio

It was touch and go there for a few months as Dish (Sling TV’s parent company) and the NFL negotiated a truce. Once they did, NFL Network and NFL RedZone both appeared on Sling TV just in time for the start of the NFL season. While that is great, there are still some channels missing that leaves you searching for other options when it comes watching or listening to a game.

RedZoneRedZone is a great channel for the 17 weeks of the NFL regular season. No commercials and you get to see every score. The downside of course the ‘internet streaming delay’ that can vary from event to event. That means that you may hear about a score via text or social media before it actually comes across RedZone. The benefit of course is that you can be completely mobile and not miss any football.

CBS Sports Network is not available for cord cutters. The channel has very limited agreements with cable providers to give one the ability to watch the away from the traditional method of sitting in front of the TV.  This means that you are left with two options if you want to follow the game on CBS Sports Network. 1) go to a bar that may have it or 2) revert to the radio.

Last Friday Wyoming visited Eastern Michigan. I wasn’t feeling the bar route so I downloaded a radio app for my phone and listen to the game. Combine that with twitter and you had a pretty real time experience. It’s cumbersome but it can work and you can still see the big plays pretty quickly after they happen. In some cases even faster than that ‘internet streaming delay’.

It is kind of funny how new technology can lead towards using old technology. While reverting to the radio is an old school thing to do, so is using an over the air antenna which is something else that I do. It’s a lot like how Netflix exploited the USPS to get dvd’s out when they originally started.

RedZone on Sling TV is the real deal but being a cord cutter means that sometimes you have to go old school. You have to take advantage of over the air television and the radio. While it’s not ideal, neither is not having all of the sports channels available online.

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Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: Here But Not There

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 9.21.2016

I cut the cord last November. While addicted to sports, it made little sense to pay Comcast $150+ a month so I could watch various college football games and receive NFL RedZone. I began looking into other options. I found Sling TV and a plain, old fashion over the air antenna. This is the football season where I will be a full fledged ‘sports cord cutter’ and this is how it’s going.

Here But Not There

Cord cutting is not for the faint of heart. It is something that you have to want to do. While Twitter proved that they can handle the current level of cord cutters/mobile users who will demand the ability to watch Thursday Night Football while at their daughter’s dance recital or watching on their XBOX. It is a little frustrating though to not have the ability to watch the Thursday Night game via NFL Network over Sling TV.

photo-sep-15-8-41-39-pmWhile Twitter did a great job, they really did but their deal did have  a head scratching moment. Sling TV users on Roku saw the error you see to your right. How does that happen?

You’d figure that you’d be able to watch the Thursday Night game on NFL Network just like you’d be able to on Comcast, DirecTV, Time Warner or even Dish. You’d be wrong.

The NFL and Twitter cut a pretty sweet deal that would allow Twitter to have exclusive access to any and all OTT services. Or so it seems. In Twitter’s defense, they did roll out apps on XBOX One, Amazon Fire and Apple TV in time for the game. That’s great but Roku has around 10 million users, more or less, which makes them a fairly big player and to not be able to stream the Thursday Night game is pretty significant.

All hope was not lost though. Any decent cord cutter, including myself, have an antenna to capture over the air broadcasts. The real question becomes, when Twitter stops streaming the games after week 10 of the NFL season, does that mean that I can watch the Thursday Night game on NFL Network on Sling TV again since it will be exclusive?

It’s all very confusing but this is what happens in the new frontier. Deals are cut as people try to put the new model into the an older one. It’s the equivalent of putting a round peg into a square hole. It should all be sorted out soon enough and we can all get back to streaming the games were supposed to.

Twitter Does The NFL & It Didn’t Suck

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 9.16.2016

twiterThe biggest name in North American sports, the National Football League, has officially embraced over the top streaming and the experience didn’t suck. Thursday nights game between the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets was the first NFL game ever streamed over Twitter. While there is some room for improvement, Twitter pulled it off.

The NFL has dipped it’s toe into the live streaming world for a couple of years now. Their streaming only game from London last year between the Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars was a success but the numbers were not the most accurate thanks to Yahoo autoplaying the game on the homepage. While experts like BAM’s Bob Bowman say that it’s a dicey proposition to go all in and make OTT the only place to see a Thursday Night game, Twitter doesn’t have to worry about that. CBS or the NFL will be broadcasting the games so Twitter only needs to worry about the cord cutter and mobile folks. As Sports Business Journal’s Eric Fisher pointed out, that is a solid number of people but nothing that should put too much stress on Twitter’s system.

Twitter was ready for this amount of users because they did a dry run the opening weekend of college football. The Weber State vs Utah State football game was a low profile way to test their infrastructure. It worked beautifully and they were able to replicated that with a significant increase in users. That should make CEO Jack Dorsey sleep well at night.

twiter2Thursdays game was a solid, stable, and had good quality stream. Finding the game was another issue.

If you were on a phone, there was no clear advertising to find the game. The best way was to search #TNF, #NYJvsBUF, @NFL, one of the teams or go to Moments. On a laptop, you were able to see a LIVE graphic in the trending section. That helped but you’d have to figure that the users were split between computers/OTT devices and mobile devices. For any new users, it would have been hard to find.

Twitter was the dark horse to win the streaming rights for Thursday Night Football. There was a lot of curiosity to see if they could pull it off and they did with flying colors. While things went well, they have to work on alerting people. It’s a challenge all OTT providers face but one that has to be solved soon.

Further Reading:

ReCode

Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: Unavailable on iPhone

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 9.14.2016


I cut the cord last November. While addicted to sports, it made little sense to pay Comcast $150+ a month so I could watch various college football games and receive NFL RedZone. I began looking into other options. I found Sling TV and a plain, old fashion over the air antenna. This is the football season where I will be a full fledged ‘sports cord cutter’ and this is how it’s going.

Unavailable On iPhone

Sports fans, especially Pac-12 fans, got an unexpected gift last Thursday. Sling TV announced a deal with the Pac-12 Network to get all of the Pac-12 channels which are split up into regions (Mountain, Arizona, Washington, etc). However the victory was short lived as the pop up ‘Unavailable on iPhone’ appeared during Monday Night Football.

pac12The Pac-12 deal is big for a couple reasons. First, the Pac-12 has some pretty darn big media markets including Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Seattle, Portland, Denver and Phoenix. Second, DirecTV doesn’t have the Pac-12 Network which means about 25 million people. The cost savings an opportunity to watch your Alma Mater could be enough to chip into that number for Sling TV.

Then Monday happened.

imageEvery now and then I have to travel for business. This trip just so happened to land on the season premiere of Monday Night Football. While bandwidth on the Southwest flight is good enough to get a medium to low quality stream of Sling TV (which I found out a day later by streaming the US Open Cup Final on ESPN), it was shocking to see the ‘Unavailable on iPhone’ when I got off the plane and tried to watch the Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers game on ESPN.

That’s right. I can watch via a Roku on my TV, my laptop or tablet but I cannot watch on an iPhone. That’s some 63 million Americans who, in theory, could not watch Monday Night Football on their phone.

That’s kind of shocking.

Now I did not try the WATCH ESPN app. I was so flabbergasted that I couldn’t watch on Sling TV that I totally forgot about the WATCH ESPN app. I was also going to be at my hotel in a matter of minutes and the game was at halftime.

I am sure that there is some contractual or technical reason why I couldn’t watch one of ESPN’s most popular programs on my iPhone but as a user I don’t really care about the reason. Part of the reason for cutting the cord was so I could watch anywhere I wanted to, on any device. How can I watch any TV, tablet or computer but not on the device that is with me 24/7? It’s like the content is available ‘almost anytime on almost any device.’

Sling TV is still winning as far as I am concerned. Two weeks into the college football season and I don’t feel like I am missing any of the action. Not being able to watch Monday Night Football on the device I have with me all of the time is odd but something that I am sure that will be fixed.

Big Data In College Football

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 9.10.2016


Rukkus, a ticket selling website, showed what you can do when you sit down and comb through the data. Some of this shouldn’t be surprising like the fact that Hawaii leads everyone in how far players have to travel to go to school there. Some of the other stats may surprise you though.

One of the things that made total sense is that Stanford was second. Stanford has to recruit a certain kind of ‘student-athlete’ and Stanford is that place where they truly are ‘student – athletes’. So the Cardinal has to go all over the country to find their players.

Navy, Army, and Air Force pretty much the same deal as Stanford. A certain type of person is going to go to these Academies. This is why all 3 are in the top 12.

Nor Cal

The one that did raise an eyebrow but it really shouldn’t when you think about it was the fact that the PAC-12 has 11 of the top 24 spots on the list. Surprising because you really never think of it but not surprising in that when you get out west, things are little more spread out than they are in the south.

Overall this was a really impressive use of data in sports. A lot of times people look at data within the context of the sport itself or they find another sport and transfer over that data. Other times data like this is glossed over and used a bumper on ESPN College Gameday into the ‘feature’ on a player or coach.

imageNow compare this to the ESPNFC article from the other day that pondered the question, if your NFL team was in the Premier League, what team would they be?

Really? This is what you are bringing to the table ESPN?

A ticket selling site gives us great use of big data and ESPN throws out this? Really disappointing.

Data like this can be used to draw so many other conclusions. Last 5 College Football National Championships have been won by Florida State, Alabama (3) and Ohio State. They are only a few spots from each other (59, 63 and 67) or have players who are 400 to 367 miles on average away from home. Oregon and Oklahoma are the only two schools in the top 48 who have made the College Football Playoff and neither won the National Title. Those players travel some 1,000 (Oregon) and 515 (Oklahoma) miles to go to school at these universities.

This is a great use of data. It’s intriguing, can help put things in a new perspective and help coaches, players and fans know their schools just a little bit better. Biggest shock, this wasn’t ESPN, CBS, NBC or FOX that came up with this.

Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: Labor Day

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


I cut the cord last November. While addicted to sports, it made little sense to pay Comcast $150+ a month so I could watch various college football games and receive NFL RedZone. I began looking into other options. I found Sling TV and a plain, old fashion over the air antenna. This is the football season where I will be a full fledged ‘sports cord cutter’ and this is how it’s going.

Labor Day Weekend

image
FSU vs Ole Miss via Sling TV over an LTE network.

Labor Day weekend is a college football fanatics wet dream. Games start Thursday and run all the way thru Monday night. Lately, more teams have chosen to play tougher/big named opponents as opposed to the “cream puffs” they’ve scheduled in the past which means that there are very few games you want to miss. It used to mean that you held your couch down for a couple of days but now you can be mobile and still watch the games at a high quality. It can be cumbersome but it’s also cheaper.

Over The Top (OTT) providers have a lot of variables to consider. The client side device (phone, tablet, laptop, etc) and bandwidth are the two major variables. While at a Starbucks eating breakfast I was able to stream ESPN via Sling TV and get a very clear picture. I jumped between a couple of channels on Sling and didn’t see a drop off in image quality.

When I switched over to ESPN3 to watch the Oklahoma vs Houston game, the video was throttled way down and the picture was very pixelated. After a few minutes the picture improved but there still was a noticeable difference between Sling’s compression and ESPN3’s. It wasn’t bad enough to discourage you from watching the game but it could sway a user from watching the game if they are really retentive about that kind of thing.

OU vs UH on ESPN3
OU vs UH on ESPN3

Another issue for OTT providers to solve is how cumbersome it is to switch between apps and ever within the app itself. What this does do is prevent you from flipping back and forth between games, a practice some remote control specialists like myself are all to accustomed too. You in sense become forced to watch the game you select and sit through any and all ads. I doubt that the content providers thought of this because they have enough to worry about with their own application much less how easy it is to switch between video apps.

The biggest downside of course is that not all networks offer games online. Or more specifically, they do not have a lot of providers streaming the channel.

Perfect example is CBS Sports Network. An underrated channel that carries Conference USA, Army, Navy and the Mountain West games. If you are a cord cutter like myself then you are kind of out of luck when it comes to streaming this channel. They had three cable providers with the authority to stream games and unless you know someone with a cable subscription to one of those three providers than you were up the creek without a paddle. At which point you have to make the decision, ‘do I go to the sports bar and ask for them to turn on the Northern Illinois vs Wyoming game or do I just listen to the radio call?’

imageWhile being able to watch games wherever you want like on your home wifi while cooking dinner or via the Verizon LTE network while walking home from dinner. The resolution via Sling TV was pretty impressive. It didn’t waver although you might get a black screen.

Cord cutting does still involve, and probably always will, a lot of password sharing. Some OTT providers work around this with a limited number of users at a time. Others don’t seem to care. It is an issue that may never be solved because at some level it’s just un-American.

Yes you can safely and reliably watch college football while being a cord cutter. It’s cumbersome at times but much cheaper than the current alternatives. Not all the channels are available and you may have to sweet talk your family members into giving you their password so you can get other games. Overall the initial weekend of college football viewing was a success but there are still 16 weeks left in the season. Let’s see if this holds up.

Twitter Jumps Into Live Streaming Sports Fray

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Twitter, very smartly, did a dry run Thursday night of it’s live streaming platform. They streamed the Weber State at Utah State football game. It was a small, off the radar kind of game that gave twitter a chance to do a live test of their platform before the real test comes next week when they do the first of their 10 NFL games. From a user perspective, the test was a success but hard to find.

CampusTwitterWeber State at Utah State started at 6pm MST. It was streamed on CampusInsiders.com and on the Mountain West Conference website as well as twitter. The twitter feeds of both CampusInsiders and the Mountain West Conference promoted the event continuously during the stream in case you were not aware. Overall the stream was clear and stable over an LTE network in a crowded location.

There were some drawbacks of course. The first being that if you didn’t know the game was on it was hard to find, at least on the app on a phone. If you jumped out of the app and went to say Facebook and then wanted to come back to the game, it was even harder to find. Pretty sure twitter has a bigger marketing plan and in app advertising for the NFL games once they start.

Photo Sep 01, 6 19 57 PMThe other drawback was the latency. While watching another game live on ESPN, you would see the score of the Utah State game on the lower third crawl and then not see the scoring play on the twitter live stream for a good three to five minutes. There isn’t much twitter can do about that. There are too many variables involved from the transcode speed to the speed of the network you are on so while it sucks for the user, it isn’t a hurdle easily overcome.

Overall twitter had a successful test run. Being able to find the game, especially for new twitter users, is going to improve. The tougher challenge will be the backend work of compression, stability and decreasing the delay. That’s easier than it looks due to the variables out of twitter’s control but it is something that will get better over time and with better technology.

Buffs Roll Over Rams

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


The 88th edition of the Rocky Mountain Showdown wasn’t much of a showdown at all. It was a one sided, behind the woodshed thrashing by the Colorado Buffaloes over the Colorado State Rams. The biggest concern for the Buffaloes after this 44-7 victory is will they let the success go to their heads?

The Buffaloes senior quarterback Sefo Liufau showed no ill effects from his foot injury that end his season a year ago. Liufau was in complete control of the new uptempo offense installed by first year co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini.

“We knew we could do a lot of things against this defense that they were coming out with,”stated Liufau who finished 23-33 for 318 yards and one touchdown. “We just gotta be more consistent in the second half I think there was a little bit of a drop off.”

The Buffaloes offense was snapping the ball as quickly as 15 seconds after the previous play putting the young Colorado State Rams defense on their heels right from the start. Liufau marched the Buffaloes up and down the field on their way to a 31-0 halftime lead capped by a spectacular 46 yard catch by junior wide receiver Bryce Bobo to set up a Phillip Lindsey touchdown.

“We came out in the game fast and that was important,” said fourth year Buffaloes head coach Mike MacIntyre after the game. “I think we should be a top PAC-12 defense.” That defense held the Rams to just 79 yards of total offense in the first half and didn’t get their initial first down until there was 10:42 remaining in the second quarter.

Senior defensive back Chidobe Awuzie led the swarming Buffaloes defense. Awuzie intercepted Rams quarterback Nick Stevens to set up the Buffaloes final scoring drive right before halftime. Stevens finished 6-20 for 31 yards and two interceptions.

There wasn’t much for the Rams to hang their hat on except for redshirt junior running back Daylan Dawkins performance. He rushed for 88 yards on 14 carries along with a 35 yard kickoff return. Head coach Mike Bobo and his staff have a lot to work on before their next game against Northern Colorado on Saturday.

Despite the Buffaloes dominating performance, they too have a lot to work on. They turned the ball over twice, settled for field goals and gave up some big runs in the second half. They should be able to get most of that fixed in time for next week’s home game against the Idaho State Bengals.

Orediggers Upend ThunderWolves

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Sometimes it takes a bit longer for your season to get started then you would like. For the Colorado School of Mines Orediggers and the CSU-Pueblo ThunderWolves it took an extra 100 minutes to get started due to a weather delay. You can add on another 15 minutes before the Orediggers realized they were playing football. After that they put on an offensive show on their way to a 57-21 route of the ThunderWolves.

The ThunderWolves started off well enough on their way to a 8-0 first quarter lead. Then the #18 Orediggers 5th year senior quarterback Justin Dvorak pressed the go button. He led the Orediggers up and down the field on their way to 43 unanswered points with 36 of those coming in the second quarter alone.

Dvorak lived up to his preseason first team All-American status by throwing for 402 yards and six touchdowns while completing 75% of his passes. His first touchdown throw was dropped into quadruple coverage to redshirt sophomore tight end Brody Oliver. It was a sign of things to come as completed pass after pass with pinpoint accuracy.

The only two concerning moments of the game for the Orediggers was when Dvorak came out of the game with an apparent right leg injury suffered during is extra point holding duties. It turned out to be cramps but with the score 50-14, Orediggers head coach Gregg Brandon decided that was enough and sat Dvorak for the remainder of the game. The second concerning moment was when the defensive, which was stellar most of the night, gave up a fourth and 32 touchdown in the third quarter.

It was an impressive win for the preseason #18 team in the country and a very concerning loss for the #5 team. CSU-Pueblo gave up an average of 16 points per game a season ago. The Orediggers take their offensive show on the road next weekend as they travel to New Mexico Highlands. The ThunderWolves head back home to welcome West Texas A&M.