Having been born and raised in Pittsburgh I am a fanatical, bleed black and gold member of the Steeler Nation. That means that this time of year I always get DIRECTV’s Sunday Ticket so I can watch every Steeler game. That also means this time of year I am going to get a lot of eye rolling and loud sighs as my wife opens the DIRECTV bill because the Sunday Ticket package and Superfan HD upgrade are expensive to watch just 16 games a year. Every year I struggle with if it is really worth the money because it never fails that there is at least one or two Sundays where we have an event, vacation or something that keeps me away from being able to watch the Steeler game live. In the past this meant that I recorded the game on my DVR and then tried to avoid all TV’s like the plague until I could get home to watch the game. I hated those days because it always felt like I was wasting money by not being at home to watch Steeler game and whatever other games help some interest for me.
This year I got email from DIRECTV that said since I had the Superfan HD package they had a desktop and iPhone application that would let me watch all the games live from my laptop or iPhone every Sunday. I immediately downloaded both to try them out since I was going to be in NYC this past Sunday and I will not be traveling on a Sunday later in the year and won’t be able to watch the game. The desktop app is built on Adobe Air and is similar to other video application like Hulu Desktop with simple controls and good quality video. I liked this because it will be perfect when I am on the road later in the year and can watch the game live on my laptop from the comfort of my hotel room.
The iPhone app is what honestly blew me away. Yesterday at 1p.m. I fired up the iPhone application to see if it would be any good. The main interface is simple and clean but effective with each game showing the score, an arrow to indicate possession and line undearth that shows the progress of the team’s drive down the field. It turns red when they are inside of the 20 yard line to let you know they are more than likely about the score.
I tapped on the Kansas City vs Baltimore game and was shocked when about 10 seconds later the game pops up on my screen streaming over just the 3GS signal. The video quality wasn’t stellar and resembled the old days of the original Real Media and Quicktime when you got about 10-12 frames per second and get a decent amount of detail on low motion shots and grainier video on the fast action plays. The audio was clear which helped smooth over the experience by letting you find out who made the play since you couldn’t quite read their name. I continued to watch the game in the back of a New York City taxi as it rocketed downtown still amazed I was able to watch the game over nothing but the 3G signal. I arrived at my destination where my iPhone found a familiar WiFI hot spot and the video snapped into sharp, near broadcast quality focus from the new found bandwidth. I took screenshots of both 3GS and WiFi video quality and if you click into the article you can see the comparison.
3GS video stream video quality
WiFi video streaming quality
More important to me than the cool technology was that this year I feel like I am really getting my money’s worth out of my DIRECTV football and those weekends out of the house aren’t wasted. This isn’t the first time this year I have felt that way as DIRECTV has been quietly putting mobile technology to really good use. The release earlier this year of their DIRECTV scheduler gave me my favorite and most useful app I have on my iPhone. Scheduler lets you search and schedule DVR recordings from anywhere so when I am working late and forgot to record the latest episode of Entourage it is no problem because I can I find the show, decide if I want to record it in the living room or upstairs in the bedroom and when I get home it is waiting for me.
I think all of this is really smart because they aren’t making new content or trying to create a flashy experience but instead they are focusing on making me feel like I am getting my money’s worth out of their product. In this economy when people are trying to save all the money they can having this kind of focus is really smart because it retains customers and keeps them spending more disposable income with your company. I already know that next year I will order the Sunday Ticket again because those nagging reservations about missing the game when I can’t be at home will be gone.