Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Judo livestreaming frustration

The 2012 London Olympics was livestreamed via the IOC's YouTube Channel. It was brilliant. You could watch the videos in HD and because it was YouTube (which is owned by Google) the streaming speed was awesome. There was no lag, everything was smooth.

The only problem is that the judo livestream was for only one mat, even though two matches were going on simultaneously on two mats during the preliminary rounds. What that meant was judo fans could only see half the action going on during those rounds. To make matters worse, you didn't even have a choice of which mat to choose. It's not like you could toggle between the mats. So, you could have a situation where some important match between two great champions could be happening on the other mat, and you are stuck watching two relative unknown players just because the livestream is on the wrong mat!

Most of us judo fans assumed two things going into the 2016 Rio Olympics:
i) It will be livestreamed on YouTube again
ii) This time it will feature two mats or at least allow the viewer to toggle between the two mats and choose which one they prefer to watch

We were WRONG on both counts. NO YouTube livestream. And ONE mat only for most livestreams.

Each country usually has one official Olympic TV broadcaster and one or two official livestream providers (usually the website of the official Olympic TV broadcaster or a broadband TV service provider).

The problem I've had with my livestream is that my provider only provides ONE mat. So, I've been forced to look for livestream providers outside the country for the other mat. Most livestream providers geo-block their livestream to limit it to viewers within their country.

VPN (virtual private network) service providers can help you overcome that but there are still hurdles ahead. Firstly, when you use a VPN, it slows down your Internet considerably. So, even if you can get the livestream, it become very laggy due to the slowdown in your Internet access. Sometimes, it slows to a crawl, so much so that you can't even watch the video.

But beyond that, there is a bigger problem. Most of the livestreams tend to show the same mat! For English speaking countries, it's the mat that Neil Adams is commenting on. But even for countries where English is not the common language, there is a tendency to show that same mat. So, even if you have access to other livestreams, you still can't see the other mat!

Sometimes, the right mat is chosen, meaning that it's the one featuring the "star" fighters. But sometimes, it goes horribly wrong. The best case in point is on Day Two when Mat 2 was being livestreamed by most providers. It's the one Neil Adams was commenting on. The problem is that most of the "big" players like An Baul (KOR), Zantaraia (UKR), Ebinuma (JPN) and Sobirov (UZB) were fighting on Mat 1.

I remember when Zantaraia lost to Oleinic (POR) in his first bout, people all around were asking "how did he lose"? Nobody knew cos the livestreams were all on Mat 2. Then when an unknown player named Mateo (DOM) beat Oleinic by ippon, everybody wanted to know how the heck that happened. Again, nobody knew cos we could only see Mat 2. It was incredibly frustrating.

I don't know why service providers don't provide the option to see both mats or at least the option to toggle between the mats. Surely it is not a technological problem. Perhaps it's a financial one. But if you've already spent so many millions paying for rights to broadcast the Olympics, why not do it properly?

Perhaps it's just ignorance on the part of the person(s) in charge of livestreams for most broadcasters. They are most likely not judo players and think: "One mat, two mats... what's the difference? One mat should be sufficient."

Bloody hell, NO!!!

To my knowledge, only two broadcasters are providing web-based livestreams of BOTH mats: USA's NBC and Australia's Channel 7.

NBC livestreams are geo-blocked for the US and requires cable or satellite TV username and password to access.

Channel 7 is geo-blocked for Australia and requires a premium payment option to view both mats.

(I was told the BBC app for iPhone and iPads allows you to see both mats but from what I can see on the website, only one mat is livestreamed)

A few of my friends are saying, hopefully the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will offer better livestream options. I say don't hold your breath. Remember, most of us assumed the livestreaming situation for Rio 2016 would be better than for London 2012. We were wrong. In many ways it's worse because it's not on YouTube.

Maybe the IJF will be able to generate enough funds by 2020 to offer judo fans around the world a free livestream through its YouTube channel. But I doubt this will happen. But if it did, then at least we would know there would be two mats offered. This whole ONE mat livestreaming situation is a real nonsense that frustrates the heck out of every judo fan I know. I'm pissed off!

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