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After years of frustration, things are about to get a lot better

for viewers of AFL video online beginning July 3rd.   A new service called Aussie Sport TV is coming online and will offer AFL video in flash format (similar to YouTube and other sites).   This will replace the existing video offerings of Telstra's Bigpond service, including for afl.com.au subscribers.   Even better, some of that video will be available here on AFANA.com.   We will have more details on AFANA's part of this very shortly.  Please note:  the service will not be live until July 3rd.   If you are not already a subscriber to afl.com.au you can subscribe to this new service at this link:  Aussie Sport TV.  (Please use this link only as subscriptions through this link generate commissions for AFANA!).  If you already are a subscriber to afl.com.au, you are subscribed to this new service automatically at no additional charge!   Today AFL web site subscribers may have received the following notice:

Dear AFL international subscriber,

This email is to inform you about exciting developments that relate to your AFL international video subscription.

For the remainder of the 2008 season, BigPond has teamed up with global digital sport and entertainment specialist - Perform, to provide a new international AFL video subscription service. The new site is called Aussie Sport TV and will feature a world-class video experience.

Aussie Sport TV will take advantage of the Perform Group's superior video streaming capabilities, providing short buffer times, excellent video and audio synchronisation and low rates of service drop-outs. In addition, subscribers will have the opportunity to sign up to view all of BigPond's Sport properties including: AFL, NRL and V8 Supercars in one cost effective package or just watch AFL videos - the choice is yours!

In order to provide a seamless transition for existing AFL international video subscribers, BigPond will transfer your current subscription and allow you to log on to Aussie Sport TV using your existing AFL.com.au user id and password.

We also want to assure you that Aussie Sport TV is subject to strict privacy and confidentiality provisions to protect your personal information. Aussie Sport TV will also honour your remaining subscription without any additional charge.

Your new Aussie Sport TV subscription service will be available by July 2008, with the actual commencement date confirmed to you in a separate email.

BigPond and the Perform Group are excited about this new opportunity and we look forward to bringing you the best Australian Sports action on Aussie Sport TV.


Kind regards,

David McGrath
Head of BigPond Sport

Article last changed on Thursday, June 26, 2008 - 12:28 PM EDT


Comments

Posted by HelenO on July 12, 2008

Rob,

Thanks for your efforts to get to the bottom of this.

I sent an email to Setanta support last night, asking why the live footy match (advertised within the previous hour in a Setanta promo) wasn't being broadcast over BB channel 1.  This morning, there was a reply asking me what browser I'm using, what media player, what OS, did I try to receive it on another computer, etc.  ;-)  So, apparently there's confusion among the support ranks as to whether AFL was broadcast last night as well.

I subscribed to Setanta BB specifically FOR AFL.  Midnight or 2am isn't the ideal time to watch games, and pretty frequently "reception" was plagued by periodic jerkiness or even resets back to the Setanta login page, but that was offset by the availability of live content that included full pre-game commentary, etc.

Like another poster, I was ready to spend on AST (to watch non-live matches at my convenience) in addition to Setanta until this happened.  My plan was to do the 4-day trial as soon as the startup kinks in their service were worked out, and check out the quality and bandwidth requirements to see if they work for me, and then purchase an annual subscription.  If they're involved in the pulling of AFL from Setanta BB so that AST can be the exclusive (legal) provider of AFL content, without providing AST subscribers with the same level of live coverage that Setanta BB has been providing (which it appears AST does not), I'm not happy.

And I'll be even less happy if it wasn't a simple mistake, because of the lack of advance notice to Setanta BB customers.

It reminds me of when transit schedules change and one public bus route is "replaced" by another public bus route.  That's an excessively generous way of saying "partially but not completely replaced", and is almost never a step forward for the customer.

HelenO

Posted by admincms on July 13, 2008

There is no evidence or suggestion that the games have been moved elsewhere.  Arguably, since you pay for the coverage on Setanta Broadband, it is "pay per view" just not as individual events.

-Rob
AFANA Chairman and Site Admin

Posted by GeorgeM on July 19, 2008

It looks more and more like the new site is just a new wrapper for the same un-DRMed Windows Media content.

Something that hadn't occurred to me when I posted earlier (yes, that was me - forgot my password) is that BigPond/Telstra still have to provide service to their "local" Australian customers, which they do as one of the "perks" of having one's internet connection through them.  Thus - no matter what they do for international fans - they're going to have to provide for that market. Obviously, they've sunk a fair amount of money into their current capture, encode and serve setup and are understandably loath to scrap it. The thing is - and I admit I'm no expert on this - my understanding of how Windows Media DRM works would indicate that actually encrypting every stream that goes out would vastly increase the demands on their servers. That's presumably why they've never actually used WM DRM on their streams - unlike some of the "all you can listen to for a monthly fee" music services here in the USA like Rhapsody or Napster.

Since they're already creating the Windows Media streams for the local market - it would appear that they're doing what they've done in the past, trying to put a fancier lock on the front door - the way one accesses the content - while not locking the content itself, or even locking the back door. At least as of Round 15, all the games I tried were available from the same sorts of stream URLs I've been used to from the previous subscription system. It also explains why Mac users are still being left out in the cold.

This leaves the question as to why they didn't do what they're trying to make it LOOK like they're doing - switch over entirely to Flash video. Again, I don't have knowledge in depth on the latest features of Flash - but none of the Flash video I've ever seen has been encrypted/DRMed - and in most cases, like with YouTube, one can just copy a video out of one's browser cache, rename it to (whatever).flv and it'll play in a variety of programs that can handle the format. That would make it easier for people to illegally copy their video, not harder.

What I find interesting is that now Amazon.com is offering DRM-free MP3s of major label music; iTunes has some music available as DRM-free "Plus" tracks, and other online music vendors are moving in a similar direction. Given the issues with streaming video halfway 'round the world - if the AFL/BigPond would just realize that trusting their users is a good business move and make all the content they're desperately trying to "protect" available to paying users as unencumbered direct downloads I suspect they'd reap a HUGE reward in fan goodwill and loyalty. They could have a more sophisticated backend that would prevent downloads by anyone not signed in to the system as a paid-up user - and the downloads should be playable on Macs via Flip4Mac. Illegal distribution of the games would likely wane - especially if they got over themselves and offered the same package to Australians who don't use BigPond as their ISP on the same terms as they do to overseas fans.

And while I'm ranting on ... with that kind of setup, they could possibly allow people to buy games a la carte, the way people buy individual songs from Amazon or iTMS. They could even allow people to try out a certain amount of content for FREE - which would help in recruiting new fans of the game.

Of course, this all assumes a sensible approach and wanting the best for the game in the long term - so obviously I'm living in a dreamworld.

GeorgeM

Posted by ovalball on July 19, 2008

Of course, this all assumes a sensible approach and wanting the best for the game in the long term - so obviously I'm living in a dreamworld.

GeorgeM

George, George, George---what's that you're smokin'??Image removed.

Posted by GeorgeM on July 20, 2008

Well - if you note my little portrait there - it's a cigar. ;)

The thing is - it's obvious that DRM is dying in the online digital music space; sure, there are people who will pirate nearly anything - but by making the material available inexpensively, and perhaps most important, usable without any hassles over how many players or computers can have that song at the same time and the like - the vast majority of the market is responding to that in a positive way. People don't like being treated like criminals, and that's how many people perceive DRM.

I see no reason why this trend shouldn't continue and cover video services as well. Make it reasonably priced and convenient for users, and there are lots of people who'd prefer to know they're being honest and paying for what they get. I wouldn't mind at all if they did something non-intrusive, like "watermarking" the files so they could tell if someone was spreading them around illegally.

Of course - there's the issue of whether one sees the online video service for the AFL as a "profit center" (which is, frankly, how I presume BigPond sees it) or as a financially self-supporting tool to advance the game itself - keeping existing fans in touch, and making it easy for people outside Australia who hear of it to find out more and perhaps become fans.

 

Posted by admincms on July 19, 2008

Yes, George, I agree that it does appear that very little, if any, content is actually in Flash and not merely wrapped.  Very disappointing.  I agree with most of what you say and it parallels my thinking.  It's a half way move that as a result, accomplishes a lot less than AFANA was lead to believe it would.  I'm personally quite frustrated that weeks after launch I still cannot get the necessary info from them to link videos here through our site software.. and I am only asking for basic info on the URL format, etc.so I can write 15 lines of program code. 

If they really want people to watch their product and pay for it then they have to make that practical.  DRM or not, if you can't make it work you won't pay for it.  And apparently that doesn't bother them.  Why, I can't say.  What I can say is that you're right:  they would make far more money if they did this the right way.

-Rob
AFANA Chairman and Site Admin

Posted by admincms on July 03, 2008

The introductory pricing will be on offer until the end of July only.  After that the pricing will revert to the standard pricing.  If you subscribe for one month at the special price you will begin paying the regular price in August.  Here is the pricing table:

 Intro pricing:

Sport

Detail

Price ($ USD)

Price (£)

AFL

4 day trial

matures to monthly repeating unless cancelled

$0.95

£0.49

1 month pass - CC

repeating to full price

$1.95

£0.99

1 month pass - DD

repeating to full price

   na

£0.99

Annual repeating

repeating to full price

$45.95

£22.99

 

 

After the first month, prices will revert back to:

Sport

Detail

Price ($ US)

Price (£)

AFL

4 day trial

matures to monthly repeating unless cancelled

$1.95

£0.99

1 month pass - CC

repeating

$9.95

£4.99

1 month pass - DD

repeating

           na

£4.99

Annual repeating

repeating

$59.95

£29.99

-Rob
AFANA Chairman and Site Admin

Posted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 13, 2008

Dear Rob, I noted that you had said that if you were already an AFL BigPond subscriber (I am) then you would be automatically granted access to the Aussie Sport TV. When I was directed to the site I couldn't get in and was offered a the chance to buy a subscription. What do you recommend? Also, there didn't seem to be any indication that full match replays would be available--only highlights. Is that correct? Best, John
Posted by ovalball on July 15, 2008

I was a BigPond subscriber and have had no problems with ASTV. My old user name and password work perfectly. Under "Contact Us" they have an "Access Issues" choice, so you might try that.

There are six full matches up for viewing this morning. This has taken longer than the old service, but the quality of the feed is much more reliable. In fact, I have had zero problems. That is a vast improvement, so credit where credit is due.

Overall, the service is very good and the price outstanding.  I am hopeful that as they get the kinks ironed out they will have full matches up somewhat faster.

Posted by HelenO on July 12, 2008

As far as I understand it, Microsoft has released the specs for all of their network protocols, including DRM, so that implementations can be developed on other platforms.

If AST could be more specific about what PART of the DRM they're using is not compatible with the Mac, that could move us closer to a solution.  (Even the answer to the question, "What application are you using to apply DRM to the media files?" might help.)

Posted by Joey (not verified) on July 06, 2008

Where are this weekends game's on Aussie Sport TV? On BigPond TV games were usually there 12-24 hours after the final siren. It's now been over 72 hours since the Geelong v. Adelaide game and it's still not on Aussie Sport TV. The problem for them is that games are available as torrents well before that length of time.
Posted by admincms on July 07, 2008

Joey:  I expect the games will be there and in future weeks should be there sooner.  But this is the first weekend the service is live and obviously there are problems.  Write to their customer support and complain however I suspect they already know this...   (or should!).

If it doesn't improve next weekend we'll be complaining.  Hang in there.

-Rob
AFANA Chairman and Site Admin

Posted by ovalball on July 07, 2008

Watched 2 matches since the new service started. A great improvement!Image removed.

I sent them a positive email, but also questioned why only 3 matches were available so far. I'm pretty certain Rob hit the nail on the head, but will post their response when I get it.

Right now it's early Tuesday morning in Oz, so I expect an answer in a few hours.

Rob, nice improvement on the site.Image removed. I will try to send some $$ along---as should everyone.

Posted by ovalball on July 08, 2008

Guess I can "expect" anything I want, but they haven't gotten back to me. That would be a behind for the new service. The old service at least always got back to you right away.

However, there are two more matches up today, so---gotta go watch!Image removed.

Posted by ovalball on July 10, 2008

Thought I'd watch something on Aussie Sport TV a moment ago. Not so fast my friend.

No images load on the home page and if you try to watch anything you are immediately taken to Rhino TV which does absolutely nothing other than run a Peugeot ad.

Out on the full!Image removed.

Posted by ovalball on July 13, 2008

Sunday afternoon and not one match is yet up for "full" viewing.Image removed. Lots of  Gamewraps (7), but that's not what I'm really after.

So, I sent another polite inquiry, but since they didn't bother to answer my one from last week I don't think I'll hold my breath waiting on a response.

Overall, the service works great and the quality is good, but they obviously need to work on their full match upload speed.

Given that this service is new I'm not going to start frothing at the mouth quite yet. However, a little communication would be nice. Why is it some companies just don't seem to get that  "Good communication is good business?"

Posted by admincms on July 13, 2008

No question that some communication would be good PR.  From what I can tell, they are overwhelmed at this moment.  I'm having trouble getting information from them clarifying technical questions AFANA has had for weeks.  

So, my guess is whatever they are doing to wrap or convert the video is taking a lot longer than they thought...

-Rob
AFANA Chairman and Site Admin

Posted by ovalball on July 14, 2008

Well, it's Monday evening EDT (8:25 Tue, AM in OZ) and ASTV has "Elmo (the muppet) meets Brad Johnson" available, but no full matches to view.

I understand start-up problems, but will never quite grasp why companies offer/promise what they really aren't prepared to produce.

The new service works great, but the content stinks, i.e, no full matches at this point. As a former ITVN subscriber/victim this, unfortunately, looks all too familiar. The old service was actually better!

BTW,  ASTV still hasn't gotten back to me, either.

However, after becoming much more Job-like at this point in my life, I will breathe deeply and wait. I mean, miracles do happen---right?

Posted by Bob on July 12, 2008

I wish they had kept the old video feature active because my WMP DRM is fouled up, and I haven’t been able to watch anything since they switched.  I have done enough investigation to know it’s not their fault.  It’s something about my WMP.  There are many WMP DRM horror stories on the Internet.  So I’m not placing blame, but I do wish they’d waited for Microsoft to improve WMP DRM functionality before they made the switch.  Thanks for allowing me to let off steam.

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