App Review: NBC Sports Live Extra For iPhone Loaded With VOD, But Heavy On Ads
NBC Sports Live Extra offers a mobile application fully stocked with live and archived video from NBC Sports' extensive list of broadcast rights agreements. Users can catch live action from the NHL, EPL, MLS, Notre Dame and the PGA Tour among others. A week with the app served up a clean and simple viewing experience, ads, ads and more ads. The app is segmented into four sections: home, sports, schedule and favorites. The home screen presents timely archived content and showcases live and upcoming events. The layout is straightforward, making it easy for users to quickly understand and navigate the offering. A sport-specific section allows for a deeper dive into content, bubbling up featured video and live programming. The live video lineup is also viewable in a schedule section. Last week the app averaged three live streams per day. While NBC Sports Live Extra is a free app, users are required to authenticate. This process is painless, assuming your cable account user ID and password are handy. NBC Sports Live Extra was reviewed using an iPhone 5 version 7.0.2, with AT&T coverage and Comcast's Xfinity service. The app was developed jointly by Adobe and NBC Sports Group.
WINS: The most notable aspect of the app is the depth and quality of live video. Saturday morning there were five EPL matches being streamed simultaneously, while only one was available on live TV. This is a great example of why die-hard soccer fans should download the app. The app's simple presentation goes a long way. It is clearly built for video, while steering clear of content overload and the "be everything to everyone" strategy. Video can be shared to Facebook and Twitter.
DRAWS: There is a wide variety of archived video within the app that is quickly updated alongside live programming. VOD offerings vary by sport and include a mix of broadcast and digital-exclusive content. EPL highlights are well done. The ability to browse and select favorite content up front is nice, and the app sends a notification each time there is a live stream beginning in selected categories. Tune-in notifications can be set for game time, 15 or 30 minutes out. Score updates and must-see action alerts would be a welcome addition.
PENALTIES: While there is no question that the app provides high quality video, there is an issue with advertising oversaturation. Thirty-second commercials run before all live video regardless of time lapse or number of videos viewed. In many instances, the same ad runs. Last weekend's primary push was tequila, and I do not recall disclosing my age. Good for revenue; bad for users. Live feeds were smooth for the most part, but there were a few frozen moments. The favorites section includes a featured video feed that was not refreshed over a five-day period. The graphic showed a "live" NHL game from Wednesday night, but when clicked on Saturday, an EPL match ran. Finally, game replay sections are broken out for every sport, but there were no replay videos available during the review period. There is no live NFL video available due to rights restrictions. This does not go unnoticed, particularly on Sunday nights, making this app a potential pass-up for NFL fans.
BOTTOM LINE: Live video: check plus. Timely and relevant video-on-demand: check. Simplistic and to the point, NBC Sports Live Extra for iPhone lives up to the mobile viewer's expectations, but falters with a surplus of unchecked pre-roll advertising. A few more bells and whistles might make this experience more compelling, but for now it works. With the '14 Sochi Olympics around the corner, it will be interesting to see what changes -- if any -- are in the blueprint.
Amie Sheridan (email@example.com) is a writer in Philadelphia.