September 20, 2014

ESPN launches updated soccer site, apps, ahead of World Cup

Just in time for the World Cup soccer tournament (which will happen if they ever finish building the stadiums), ESPN has announced an official launch of the newly redesigned ESPNFC.com website, which the worldwide leader promises will bring “comprehensive multiplatform World Cup coverage from Brazil and around the globe.”

So it’s not just World Cup matches but pretty much anything soccer that you want or need to know will be available via the site as well as through the new ESPN FC app, available for either iPhone or Android. According to ESPN, as the official FIFA U.S. broadcaster, its app will have access to live video highlights “moments after they happen.” Like we said, as long as they finish building the stadiums.

Screen shot of ESPN FC app

Screen shot of ESPN FC app

Another screen shot of the ESPN FC app. Do you have World Cup Fever yet?

Another screen shot of the ESPN FC app. Do you have World Cup Fever yet?

Masters sets big-event standard again for streaming video, with multiple online and app choices

Screen shot of The Masters iPhone app. Credit: The Masters

Screen shot of The Masters iPhone app. Credit: The Masters

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: No big sports event does online video as well as The Masters. And this year’s version, which begins Thursday April 10, is no different with five channels of online action available both at CBSsports.com and at the Masters.com site. Live video and other features will also be available through the free Masters apps for iPhones, iPads, iPod Touch, and Android-based phones and tablets. Mind you, this is all on top of the extensive live TV coverage, which is also the best for any major sporting event simply because of the lack of commercials.

HERE IS THE FULL MASTERS TV AND ONLINE BROADCAST SCHEDULE FOR THE ENTIRE MASTERS WEEK

Even with Tiger Woods missing this year’s Masters due to recent back surgery, there’s still plenty to like about this year’s field and with Tiger removed from the equation maybe some other golfers will get more time to shine in the spotlight. But seriously, if you can’t get your fill of live golf action next week you’re simply not trying. The online part, which we like best, will have five different channels, four of which are truly live on-course action, plus one from the range with the usual talk-show type analysis and blah blah blah.

But the action channels are mesmerizing: One will focus on “Amen Corner,” the stretch of holes 11, 12 and 13 that may be the best three-hole sequence anywhere; another channel focuses on holes 15 and 16, which would be signature holes at maybe any other course other than Augusta. The third and fourth channels will simply focus on “featured groups,” following top groupings of players over the last 9 holes each day. If you’re an addict like I am you will be sitting with your laptop on the couch, watching ESPN coverage Thursday and Friday which you supplement with the online stuff.

We tracked down some of the infrastructure that makes the Masters online tick a couple years ago, and we can only imagine how it’s grown since. The good news is, the team of The Masters, IBM and CBS seems to have this thing nailed down, and truly we can’t wait for what is usually the best weekend of online sports-watching anywhere.

Fox: We’re ready for big Super Bowl streaming audience

While nobody can predict how things like a stadium blackout or a polar vortex might affect the broadcast of an event like the Super Bowl, executives at Fox are doing all they can to prepare to make sure this year’s online coverage of the NFL’s championship game goes off as well as possible.

With viewership expected to exceed last year’s total of 3 million unique online viewers, the live stream of Super Bowl XLVIII will be available on iPads in the Fox Sports Go app and via a browser at FoxSportsGo.com. The online feed will be available free to anyone with an Internet connection starting at 12 a.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 2, and will also include access to a Spanish-language broadcast.

But remember: The live streaming from Fox is only available for desktops or laptops, or via an iPad using the FoxSportsGo app. Because of NFL rights contracts, to watch the game live on a smartphone you need to be a Verizon customer and have the $5 per month premium version of the NFL Mobile app installed.

No matter which platform you choose to use, as always the Super Bowl should be a compelling story, even if that tale is something other than the game between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. Super Bowl XLVIII is scheduled to start around 6:30 p.m. ET from MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, where snow and cold may be part of the equation.

“It should be interesting, with [possible] weather in New Jersey,” said Clark Pierce, senior vice president of mobile and advanced platforms for Fox Sports, in a phone interview earlier this week. “We’re ready for traffic to spike at some moment when something happens, and we get a lot of concurrent users. We’ll see how we do.”

Tablet audience keeps fueling growth

Granted, the online viewer numbers for the Super Bowl are completely dwarfed by the regular TV viewers, which for last year’s game totaled 164 million. But having 4 million unique viewers online is a huge digital audience, and it’s one that Pierce said Fox has been planning for over the past few years.

“We know what CBS did [for streaming] and we know what NBC did,” Pierce said of the networks which had the Super Bowl broadcast the past 2 years. “And we’re working with [content delivery network provider] Akamai, and it’s not their first rodeo. So I think we’re ready for whatever can happen.”

Perhaps the biggest number of online viewers for this year’s Super Bowl will come via Apple iPads, the market leader in the tablet form factor. While Fox has not yet released viewer numbers by device or platform for its restricted streaming of the NFC playoff games, it did say it had a record 2.4 million visitors to its FoxSports.com website on championship Sunday, a 53 percent increase over the previous year. Pierce said increases in digital viewers are partially due to the expanding tablet market, and tablet owners getting more comfortable watching sports on a smaller screen.

“The concept of watching TV on a smaller screen is another year down the road and people are just that much more used to it,” said Pierce, who also said that online viewers may choose tablets over laptops or desktops due to clearer pictures.

“People are getting spoiled by Apple and Android devices with really high screen resolution,” Pierce said.

Streaming delay inevitable

What doesn’t work so well with any live streaming option is trying to use it as a “second screen” alongside a live TV broadcast. Because of the technical necessities of putting a live signal online — which includes mainly taking the TV feed and encoding it to the Internet — delays between “live” TV and the show online can be from 20 seconds to a minute or more, Pierce said.

“It does take time to take a big HD picture and encode it into IP,” Pierce said. “There’s just no way around it.”

In the future, Pierce hopes to help Fox add more features to its online offerings, maybe making them something like what broadcast engineers see in the event production studios, with multiple monitors offering different feeds and live stats. Still, just having a free online broadcast is a huge leap forward from the recent past.

“It’s been exciting to build it, and in the future our team hopes to add more content and features,” Pierce said. “The horizon is pretty exciting.”

New MLB app lets fans develop GM skills

mlbvp

Major League Baseball’s Advanced Media Group has taken the wraps off of its latest mobile game as the league is now looking to maintain fan interest and mindshare into in the off season with the release of MLB.com Franchise MVP.

Baseball fans are often known for their following of not just the major league team but all of its affiliates in the minors from short season A teams to AAA as well as Winter League and other off season contests, and this game will appeal to them.

MLB.com Franchise MVP covers not only the pro level but actually starts at the Class A level and includes 120 teams that are in both MLB and MiLB and enables the user to be both a player working his way up to the bigs but also as a manager.

Starting out the user decides on a wide variety of topics and how to apply them such as training and what type, as well as in game decisions for the mini-game simulations. As skills and ability improve the players moves up levels and helps teams win. As the player progresses he earns currency that can be used to buy addition gear, skills and training equipment

In its press release MLB’s vice president of gaming Jamie Leece said “We built this game to be a fun graft of simulation baseball and player development strategies,” Anyone who has sat around with more than two baseball fans knows that these are topics that are very popular.

The app, which is available for free for Apple iPad and iPhones joins a number of other programs that have been developed by MLBAM including MLB Ballpark Empire and MLB.com Home Run Derby. It would be fun if the league made some that included some of the historical but now gone leagues like the Arizona-Mexican League or just any of the Class B, C or D leagues.

Short Week Grab Bag: Cheap HP tablet, new hockey TV deal in Canada

Hewlett-Packard has revealed that it will be entering the Black Friday fray with a very enticing offer: a 7-inch HP Mesquite tablet for the low, low price of only $89. The tablet will be available at your local Walmart.

The tablet is one of several that will be on sale that weekend that are powered by Intel’s Medfield family of microprocessors as the chip maker is using the start of the shopping season to start hyping its development partners in the tablet space.

Google Glass user booted from club
Earlier this year a Seattle bar said that it would ban anybody wearing Google’s see all glasses. Well a user of the hands free device has been kicked out of a bar, but not the one that made the original promise.

A user was asked to either remove the glasses or be asked to leave the Lost Lake Café and Lounge and apparently made a scene both at the bar but also online (where else) as he complained about his rights. Not sure where in the U.S. Constitution those rights are covered but I am sure its in there somewhere.

EdgeCast Networks helps Indianapolis Colts reach fans
The team has developed the ability to stream video and live content to fans using pretty much any mobile device using EdgeCast technology as the team seeks to increase traffic to its own web sites and away from third party apps.

Get your Apple rumors here
Now that Apple has filled its backlog of iPhone 5S orders it’s time for the company to start fending off rumors of what will be in its next generation iPhone, probably known as the iPhone 6. Well the International Business Times has done a nice roundup for you.

The release date will be late next year; it will have a larger screen, possibly as large as six inches. The display may be curved or flexible and it will be lighter than existing models. Is weight really an issue with iPhones?

Nokia looking at 8-inch tablet?
Well not really looking at but actually planning on building on for sale, with a possible release date sometime in the first quarter of next year, a follow-up product to its 10-inch Lumina 2520, according to Digitimes.

The piece also said that it expects that LG Electronics and Sony Mobile to stay in the tablet market but that sources are reporting that HTC, Motorola Mobility and BlackBerry may choose to leave and only focus on smartphones.

New hockey broadcast deal in Canada
The NHL has just signed its most comprehensive, and largest financially, broadcast deal for games to be shown in Canada. The deal gives Rogers Communications the broadcast and digital rights to all NHL games.

The 12-year deal cost the cable company $5.2 billion and is viewed as a step by Rogers to drive demand for its subscription based cable networks.

Friday Grab Bag: MLB Looks at iBeacon

In the last few weeks Microsoft has been very good at starting rumors with its vague comments about potential new directions and the latest is that it might be looking at delivering a Phablet that runs the unpopular Windows RT operating system.

As reported by Slash Gear, Microsoft vice president Terry Myerson speaking at the company’s financial analyst meeting last week said that the distinction between a phone and a tablet is blurring and that has seen the growth of the Phablet space.

Google’s Balloon idea about to pop?
Much has been made about Google’s plan to launch a series of balloons to provide Wi-Fi-around the globe in an effort called Project Loon. Now Per Lindstrand has come out against the program calling it ‘a waste of time.’

If you are unfamiliar with Lindstrand he was Richard Branson’s partner as they sought to fly a balloon around the world. He said that he expects the balloons to eventually all gather at the North or South Pole.

MLB gives iBeacon a trial run
One of the features in Apple’s recently released iOS 7 operating system is something called iBeacon. It is a technology that is designed to address the shortcomings that GPS suffers from when used indoors.

Now MLB has demonstrated the potential of the technology for use at ballgames and has the potential to bring fans to within 10 feet of their destination, not within the ½ mile that is how much a GPS can be off. No word yet if it will incorporate it in its At the Ballpark app, but keep an eye out next season.

Wall Street misses on Apple iPhone sales
The day that Apple released its latest generation iPhones the naysayers were out in force. The company has lost its mojo, CEO Cook is not inventive enough, the new phones are a dud and on and on as the stock, which had soared prior to the rollout started to sink.

The market put sales of the new phones in the 6 to 7.5 million range and just a week later Apple is breaking the 10 million unit barrier and phones are on backorder. In addition the company told Wall Street to expect quarterly earnings to be at the high end of the range it had previously announced. Mojo rising I guess.

Intel invests in Google Glass rival
Recon Instruments, which has been making wearable technology for some time has announced that Intel has come on board as a significant investor, although the sum has not been revealed. Recon makes Heads-up Displays for sports.

Recon has a number of partners including Oakley and has been shipping, and selling the devices at a number of outlets worldwide, including Apple Stores. Recon said that so far it has shipped over 50,000 devices.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 ship date set from Sprint
Sprint has announced that it will be shipping the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 on Oct. 4. So fans of the very popular phone can start getting in line soon. The real good news for many will be that it comes with an Unlimited Data Guarantee for life.