Wimbledon 2008 starts this Monday June 23 and runs to July 6. I just discovered (ironically through an adsense ad on The Daleisphere) that Wimbledon provides a two week ‘Wimbledon Live‘ service where, for a flat fee of $24.99 (approx. £12.65) you can stream live matches to your PC or download up to 250 matches in .wmv format after the match is complete.
2008 matches will be available until May 1, 2009. Day passes are will be available but so far I have not found pricing details.
As usual, my TiVos are queued to record as many matches as TSN and NBC air. But, all too often, matches that I want to watch are not broadcast. Or, too frequently, certain channels have exclusive rights to particular high profile matches with the result that they are not shown on the channels that my cable provider, Rogers, makes available to me!
Formats and Quality
All video is in 384 x 288 format with a 4:3 aspect ratio. I took a quick look at the free streaming demo of the 2005 Federer vs. Roddick Wimbledon Final. The quality wasn’t great (see pic above) but it wasn’t bad either. Because the service works with Windows Media Player only, the service is not available to Apple users and, presumably, not available through AppleTV.
Note: In addition to the free streaming demo, I tried downloading the free downloadable version but it would not play without my having to first sign up and give them my credit card. This kind-of defeats the “free” part of the ‘Download (FREE)’ offer :).
Matches from eight courts can be watched live via streaming. But the downloadable versions only become available after midnight British Standard Time (7pm US EDT) of the day of play. This probably works fine for North American viewers. Assuming they manage to avoid TV/ radio / newspaper /website accounts of the matches during the day – something that is very hard to do especially with regards to the high profile players.
The service also includes match highlights, player interviews and archive footage. It is available to anyone in any country except Spain and Germany.
The service is provided by MediaZone. I read through MediaZone’s Wimbledon FAQ. It answers some questions but doesn’t tell me everything I want to know before subscribing. I sent an email into their support department (firstname.lastname@example.org) asking these questions:
[June 23 UPDATE: LJ of MediaZone responded to my emailed question’s. I have inserted LJ’s answers under each question below.]
Q1. Media Extenders: Can the downloaded DRM’d .wmv files be played back through media extenders such as an Xbox 360? This is critical to me. I do not want to watch content on a computer screen.
Answer: “Our content is designed to play through Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer. While you can try using extenders such as with Xbox, we cannot make any guarantee’s it will function correctly nor are we able to provide support for this option. Our agents are trained to provide technical support on the programs we design our content to work with. You can try connecting your computer to your TV but we are also unable to provide technical support for this option as well. However, if you do a key word search in our FAQ for "TV Set," you’ll find some information which should help get you set up.”
Q2. Hiding Outcomes: The FAQ says that downloadable matches won’t display the winning player. I want to know how, specifically, is this achieved? Can I, for instance, just look at all the matches available for Monday the 23rd without being shown the matches for Tuesday the 24th or Wednesday the 25th? If I accidentally see the matches for Wednesday, when I’m looking to download Monday matches, then I’ll know who won the Monday matches. I would like to know if the system shields me from accidental discovery of winners by allowing me to select from matches available on specific days only.
Answer: “Our Video On Demand section will be broken down by day, as it should be across the site. You should be able to view the matches which occurred on each day without results being spoiled. However, we are still working with our web designers on this feature, hopefully any spoiling of results will not take place.”
Q2. Limits: Does the system place a limit on how many matches that can be streamed/downloaded or can a customer conceivably stream/download them all for the $24.99?
Answer: “Your purchase allows you access to all the Wimbledon matches on our site. There is no limit on how many matches you can download or how many times you download them. It’s entirely possible to download every match. The only thing you’ll need to keep an eye out for is limiting yourself to 3 computers. After the 3rd computer you will experience a max license error.”
This is a terrific development. I’d like to see the matches available through Apple TV or directly downloadable to my TiVo, PS3 or Xbox 360. My sense is these types of offerings will be available in the future. For now, this service is a good start. I wish it was available for all grand slam tournaments.
- Windows OS: XP (Preferred) or Vista – (Apple MAC and Linux is NOT supported!)
- Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher with cookies enabled (default setting) and security settings set to "medium"
- Windows Media Player 10 or 11
- For Streaming: Broadband connection (Speed of 550 kbps or higher)
- Dialup connection is not recommended for this higher bandwidth offering.
- System clock set to the correct time zone, date, and time