Date: 4 December 2019
Written by: Rik Henderson
When Amazon won one of the packages of live Premier League football rights during 2018’s auction, skepticism followed.
Not only does it result in 20 matches being locked behind an Amazon Prime subscription that football fans might not want for the rest of the year, there were questions on how an online retailer and streaming giant would handle the beautiful game.
Well, the service debuted its first live coverage last night – with the Burnley vs Manchester City and Crystal Palace vs Bournemouth games being first to be screened, in 4K HDR and Full HD respectively. And, it must be said, they both looked superb on the platform. So, that’s one worry allayed.
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Indeed, the 4K HDR broadcast of the Man City game in particular was stunning. We watched on an LG 65-inch OLED TV and the crisp, clean detail was amplified by excellent HDR performance. It’s a cliche that gets rolled out with every tech advancement in sports TV, but it really did seem like we were there in the flesh – better even.
Yes, there are caveats. We have 350Mbps broadband and wired our TV directly to the router via Ethernet Cat-6 cabling.
Amazon Prime Premier League games: How to watch tonight’s football matches on Prime Video for free
Those watching on slower speed broadband and using a wireless internet connection might not have had the same stable, super-high resolution experience.
But, in comparison with the BBC’s trials during last year’s World Cup, this 4K HDR experience was exemplary. Remember, it’s not HLG but true HDR10.
That’s not to say there weren’t further issues though.
As widely posted on Twitter, delay on Amazon’s stream was a real problem. Some even reported up to two minutes worth of delay, which meant that they had long since been notified of a goal by their smartphone app of choice, before seeing the ball hit the back of the net themselves.
It’s not something we managed to test ourselves during the launch (but will be keeping an eye on during the Liverpool vs Everton game later today). However, we have noticed latency to be a real problem when streaming live sports coverage through other platforms before.
During the aforementioned World Cup, our next door neighbours’ cheers pre-empted any relevant moment in 4K HDR matches streaming over iPlayer. It lead to us switching it off entirely and watching the Full HD broadcast on regular TV instead.
And, even Now TV has a delay. It’s not as severe as Amazon’s reported issues, but we’ve often forgotten that Now TV plays catch up to regular Sky Q presentations of the same matches – to the detriment of family and friends who we’ve called before they’ve seen the same action.
So, ultimately, it’s not really Amazon’s fault alone. Streaming seems to be the culprit, full stop. After all, a live broadcast that would normally be transmitted to homes almost directly, needs to be encoded for streaming first. That can add an extra stage of latency and, therefore, delay.
That said, we’re not entirely sure why it takes a reported two minutes for that process to be completed, but these are early days for Amazon and we’re sure it’ll continue to improve its tech in time for future games.
In the meantime, though, we’ll be switching off notifications on any sports app we have on our phones in preparation for the Merseyside derby. And gagging the neighbours, just in case.
Written by: Rik Henderson
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