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Sports Streaming In India Is Broken And Needs To Be Fixed

'Cord cutting' is not an option for the Indian sports buff.

16/03/2017 2:53 PM IST | Updated 16/03/2017 5:19 PM IST
Danish Siddiqui / Reuters

The term 'cord cutter' refers to a person who doesn't rely on the traditional means of consuming content such as cable TV. Mostly, such a person relies on Internet based streaming services.

I personally consume a lot of content which is already available on the Internet, but one area where being a cord cutter becomes difficult is sports.

Being an avid sports fan, I follow cricket, football, and tennis regularly and in India, most sports coverage is handled by broadcasters Star Sports, Sony ESPN, Ten Sports and Neo Sports. Star Sports' streaming arm is Hotstar.

Hotstar streams cricket matches for free but with a five-minute delayed feed. If you opt to become a premium customer, the company claims to provide un-delayed stream with no ads. Subscription price is ₹199 per month.

Hotstar

The Hotstar app holds the rights for most Indian cricket team matches, along with English Premier League, Bundesliga, ISL and Kabaddi league matches. It also has the rights to stream the next season of the Indian Premier League. While the package looks great on paper, Hotstar fails in execution at various levels.

I have personally experienced many technical failures such as unavailability of streams even after the match has started and numerous errors on the website and the app. And, I am not alone in this experience. Moreover, Hotstar offers a delayed stream on Apple TV even if you have a premium subscription. While this only affects a small number of users, a declaration before the stream begins would have been nice. For an app which has been declared the Apple TV app for the year 2016, there are big chunks missing, such as personalisation.

Even on the Hotstar mobile app and website, there is absolutely zero personalisation besides the shows you're currently watching. I can't even set alerts for matches that I want to watch.

Matthew Peters via Getty Images

The second website I used was Ten Sports, for watching Champions League football and the League Cup of English football. You can only get live streaming if you pay 50 for the match. Which is fair enough but in return, you get a 480p stream which doesn't work very well. And, you have to cast it through Chrome to watch it on TV which, at that quality level, can be a little strenuous on your eyes on a big screen. I have had several instances where I logged on to watch a match only to find a completely different stream playing.

Ten Sport is soon to be merged with SonyLIV which has its own app and website. While the user interface is much more comprehensive in this app, match telecasts are delayed by 2 to 5 minutes. Nor is there any option to pay and watch the match live. SonyLIV said that it is working on the feature but can't comment on the timeline at present.

A lot of non-sports content too — including movies, TV series and other shows — is now also available on streaming services, either for free or behind a paywall. But the live nature of sports is making it difficult for streaming services to provide a truly live service.

On television as well, there are a good many obstacles that a fan must tackle to watch one's favourite team or player. For instance, some matches, and sports such as football, have now been moved to HD channels. Not everyone in India has an HD ready TV set or set-top box. In such a scenario, streaming the match is the best that they can hope for.

Here, the user interface is broken at several points and the apps don't work well. While watching highlights on the go might work for you, there is clearly a long way to go before sports broadcasting becomes truly wireless.

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