Thanksgiving week with the Big Ten Network's BTN2Go uncovered an abundance of live games and archived video for the Big Ten's in-season sports -- including football, ice hockey, men's and women's basketball and volleyball. The app, developed by NeuLion, scores with social but also stumbles with excessive advertising and a poorly organized VOD library. BTN2Go focuses on live games, scores and full-length replays. Featured content is showcased upon opening. A full listing of Big Ten games is organized by week beginning on Sundays. Full game replays are available for all past games. A Watch Now button appears for live games, and a BTN Live section offers a 24/7 live feed of the Big Ten Network. Archived video is contained in a section titled Shows, and recent news can be found under Headlines. Team-specific sections bring scores, videos and headlines into a single location. Game alerts can be set for all games or for single matchups. The app was reviewed using an iPhone 5 version 7.0.4, with AT&T wireless and Xfinity service. BTN2Go is free to download, and authentication of the cable service provider proved simple.
ALL-CONFERENCE NOMINEES: Live game feeds are clean, and the video player is wrapped with social media sharing tools. Small but clearly distinguishable Facebook and Twitter icons pre-populate tune-in messaging. Example: "I'm watching Minnesota vs. Michigan St. in the BTN2Go app!" Some live games offer a bonus Twitter integration where users can select the team they are rooting for, and then post and read fan tweets within the live-streaming environment. Aside from a single pre-roll advertisement on open, full-length game replays are commercial-free, offering the same basic social media sharing tools. Schedules, headlines and archived video are sortable by school and sport, making it easy for fans to find the content they want. Favorite teams can be added for a custom experience.
REDSHIRTS: BTN2Go suffers from over-advertising syndrome. This is particularly noticeable on archived video, where the same ad plays before each video regardless of time lapse or number of videos viewed. In the same vein, while watching BTN Live, the same ad was served twice in a row during a commercial break. While it would appear that all games are available to watch live, some are not. Over the weekend, clicking on the Penn State-Wisconsin football game -- which aired on ESPN2 -- opened an error message saying that the game was not available because it was "an upcoming game." Clearly, this game was just unavailable due to broadcast restrictions. The Shows section contains high quality highlight and on-demand video, but this is not made obvious to users. Why would game highlights be hidden under a section called Shows? Furthermore, the app does not offer game highlights in a timely fashion. In most cases, and perhaps due to broadcast rights restrictions, highlights are not available until the next day. Lastly, the single-game alerts section is slow to update. On Monday morning, the app still showed alert selections for Friday's schedule.
BOTTOM LINE: BTN2Go impresses with simple yet functional video features. Facebook and Twitter sharing tools inside live and archived video make this a standout social experience. Despite some confusing error messages for unavailable games, most Big Ten Conference matchups are available for live viewing. Some advertising cleanup is required along with better categorization of archived video. Adding some urgency and increased focus on the highlight offering is the main area for improvement.
Amie Sheridan (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a writer in Philadelphia.
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