Gathan Beaga

video streaming the football

On Friday I installed a spare TV in the bedroom, so that Becky and I could watch some early morning World Cup1 action without having to get cold.

Alas, it was not to be. Despite the free-to-air New Zealand state-funded broadcaster advertising itself, rather lamely, as “your world cup channel” there’s very few live games in the initial Group round on there, as I found last night when I went hunting for England vs. Paraguay in the schedules.

It seems the local satellite pay TV outfit has sewn up all the Group games, with only the initial game and a selection of later games and the finals live free-to-air.

Once I’d put away my outraged sense of entitlement (isn’t it every man’s right to see the World Cup for free2?) I set to work discovering how I could find some live streaming on the internet instead. After all, that’s what broadband connections are for, right?

First port of call was the local satellite pay TV people. I’d be quite happy to pay for a one-off internet stream of an event. We don’t watch enough sport to make it worth subscribing and getting a set top box with all the attendant malarkey that involves. Being able to pay $5 or $10 for a game we are actually interested in would make much more sense than $600 or so annually for a whole lot of stuff we don’t care about.

Yeah right. Like they’d be any help. Nothing on useful on their website.

Then on to the BBC, who understandably (given the cost of this sort of thing) have fallen back on their mandate as the British Broadcasting Corporation and don’t show their free live video streams to anyone outside the UK. And seem to have restricted access only to British ISPs that are registered with them. Clever.

Next stop: Wired News and their interesting article about pirate streams via China and Israel. It would see that there are several different and competing p2p style streaming technologies being used by the pirates. Unfortunately none are available for MacOSX. Although I really need someone who can read Chinese to confirm this for me… I got a bit lost using babelfish to navigate through dozens of mainland websites in my quest.

Then I discovered a site that lists legitimate live streaming TV sites from around the world. I tried a few of these in turn, finding at last a video stream for Chinese sports network CCTV5. Super high quality, unfortunately too much so for my broadband connection3. But five seconds of fullscreen, followed by a couple seconds buffering was an acceptable compromise I thought.

Then, as a backup, or perhaps as a complement to the Chinese commentary, I lined up two UK internet radio stations, Talksport and BBC Radio5 Live.

By this time I was getting a bit tired. It was 12:30am… but I was set. I went to bed and fell into a shallow but satisfied sleep.

At 1:15am, about 15 minutes into the game, I woke up and cranked up the iBook. First up was the CCTV5 stream. Before it was a little hard to coax into life, but now it was even harder, probably because of all the extra people like me tuning in. I eventually got it going about 20 minutes later, saw about 15 seconds of action (hmmm, one nil to England) before it conked out again.

Then I tried the radio stations, thinking that at least I’d get some sound. No go – licensing issues struck again, with Radio 5 looping a “Due to licensing restrictions…” message, and Talksport playing some old Liverpool game instead of the advertised live broadcast. Bugger.

I got desperate. I tried the streams of a couple Paraguayan stations. Nope. I looked at Australia’s SBS – but they use RealPlayer (I’m desperate, but not that desperate!).

Brazil. Nope. Argentina. No go. I tried others, switching from place to place. Nada. Zilch. Nowhere and nothing.

I turned the light off at 2:45am just as the game would have been finishing. What a waste of time and sleep.

And so the question remains: Where are the pay-per-view global internet streamers? Can’t someone fix this? Soon?

1 Oh dear, I forgot the ™. So sorry, FIFA.

2 I am joking. Although I note that somehow the Australian free-to-air state-funded broadcaster has managed to be able to show all games live…

3 Another “Yeah right” moment: the stream was 769 kilobits per second, which theoretically should be well inside the parameters of my nominally 2 megabit connection. Having tested my connection many times via speedtest.co.nz I have never had a speed over 1.1 megabits per second… and that was in a connection to my own ISP. No wonder Telecom don’t make available their contention ratios.

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