UPDATED 7/11/12. See below story for updates.
Those two services allow us to watch enough TV; they have kids programming, movies and some current TV shows.
But it leaves a gap for specialty TV like sports; specifically the Tour de France and other racing and athletic events.
The popularity of mobile devices and Internet subscriptions is growing so the fact that NBC now produces an app to let you watch the Tour de France has been very cool for us. For $15 you get access to all live streaming video of the race, stage replays, rider tracking, information, news photos. Much more content than you would have on traditional TV.
One negative is that you need two separate subscriptions if you want PC access versus iOS access. The PC access subscription is $30. But for me the iOS access is much better as I am pretty mobile and there is one universal app for iPad and iPhone and iPod touch.
The app itself is not without some minor flaws, but overall it’s fantastic. Live streaming video works very well, it’s not HD, but it’s still very good. Full replays of the stages appear about three or four hours after the live streaming events and can be replayed on demand. Though I’m not sure for how long after the tour ends will they be accessible.
One of my favorite features is the ability to flag riders as your favorites. Then at any point you can see how your favorites are doing or get information and profiles just for your favorite riders.
The replay video is not as good quality as the streaming video. One great feature is that any of the video content can be pushed to an AppleTV via AirPlay for viewing on your television.
One of the annoying quirks is that you have to have the audio toggle switch on the side of the device turned on or else you won’t get any sound on the video. What that means then is you also get all of your alerts and reminders chiming in: new emails, messages, FB notifications, etc. will notify you while you are watching. This isn’t the case when using other video apps like Netflix, Hulu or YouTube.
Another annoyance is that when your screen is set to timeout and lock, the default being two minutes, it still does so during playback. Again this is something that other video apps don’t do. For example, when you are watching a movie on Netflix it won’t timeout and lock the iPad while the movie is playing. When you intend to watch the Tour de France videos, you need to make sure to disable screen lock by changing the iOS General Setting to Never.
While there are a few annoying quirks, overall I think the app is great. Given that I save at least $100, if not more, per month by not having cable television, for a one time (per year) $15 this is a welcome à la carte purchase to get access to great live race footage and content. Hopefully other major events and broadcasts jump on board and provide some these à la carte options. I’m looking at you Olympics!
This review was based on version 1.0 of the iOS app. Since writing this, they have released an update which addresses the few annoyances listed above, namely:
- audio toggle can now remain off and video audio still works as expected.
- while playing back video you don’t need to change the auto-lock settings. It will override your setting while video playback is going (as to be expected from video apps).
- because they fixed the auto-lock issue, they also now allow you to lock the screen when in airplay (so if pushing content to AppleTV via airplay, you can shut off the screen on the iOS device – before you need to keep the screen on or else the feed would end)
- video quality seems vastly improved. I’m not sure if this was because of initial usage spikes or estimates, but it seems as though they turned on more servers for streaming video. live video plays back in high res, not quite HD, but very good. Replays look just as good now. For reference, I push the video to an AppleTV via Airplay on a 50″ plasma TV. It handles it great.
I would give the app 5 out 5 stars now (vs 4 out of 5 before).