Tagged: streaming video

This is how you're going to watch the Summer Games

Here’s a fact that blew me away when I read it: The London 2012 Olympic Games will be the first Olympics since the launch of the iPad.

Think about that for a moment. If you own an iPad, or any tablet for that matter, you know how much it has changed your media consumption habits. Everything from how often you surf the web, check email, log on to Facebook or Twitter or watch YouTube – every one of these activities has become (for better or worse) a bigger part of your life.

And given that the Summer Games are taking place in London, England – a land that is at least 5 hours ahead for Canadians (8 if you live on the west coast) – there’s a good chance that the live coverage of events will be happening when you aren’t in front of your TV. That thought is bound to have Olympics junkies wondering how they’re going to get their fix throughout the day.

Fear not, my friends, Sync has you covered. Here is everything you need to know to stay on top of all the action whether you’re at home, at work or somewhere in between – even on vacation.

TV

Let’s face it, all of that exciting sports action deserves the best possible screen and that is still (until something better comes along) your HDTV. Regardless which satellite or cable company you subscribe to (or even if you’re using free over-the-air) you’ll be able to catch the games on the official Canadian broadcasters: CTV, TSN, Omni and Omni2, SportsNet, OLN, RDS and RDS2 and V-Tele. If you can receive these in HD, you’ll enjoy crystal-clear image and sound.

If however, you are a Bell TV subscriber, there are two more features worth noting: Satellite subscribers can access a special channel known as the “Mosaic” – a screen that features 5 of the channels that are currently broadcasting events live from the Games. You can see each feed in real time in order to decide which you want to watch – or simply leave it on that channel and enjoy them all. If you have Fibe TV, the same channel will be interactive – use your Fibe TV remote to highlight the channel you want from the Mosaic and jump to it directly.

The Web

The next best place to catch the Games is your PC or laptop. Heading over to CTVOlympics.ca will give you the most comprehensive view of the Olympics along with scheduling, athlete profiles, contests, photos and interviews. Watching on your PC’s screen won’t always live up to the full-HD broadcast quality you can get from cable or satellite, but if you’re on the road and have Wi-Fi access, it’s definitely the next-best thing.

Use An App

If you have an iPad or an Android tablet, you can download the free CTV Olympics app that essentially replicates the CTVOlympics.ca experience within a native app. You’ll find that navigating between the features and videos is easier than using the web-based version on a touch screen. Again, as long as you have Wi-Fi connectivity, you’re good to go.

Use Bell Mobile TV

If you find yourself outside of Wi-Fi reception, and you own a Bell smartphone, the Bell Mobile TV application is the only way to access live streams from the Games when on a 3G or LTE network connection. The Mobile TV subscription costs $5/month for 10 hours of streaming, with $1/hour thereafter. It costs more than free, obviously, but if you’re camping or even just taking the train home at night, it’s a great way to get caught up on the action. The app gives you access to all of the channels that are offering live coverage, plus an on-demand section for grabbing highlight videos from your favourite events.

Using Facebook

Bell has created a custom app on Facebook called the Bell London 2012 Scheduler and it’s an interactive service that lets you find the events you want to watch or follow, receive reminder emails before the events starts, plus you can update your status automatically so your friends know what you’re watching. Better yet, if your friends use the app, you’ll be able to see who else is planning to watch at the same time – making it easier to plan group watching sessions whether online or, y’know, in real life.

Make It Epic

Okay so this really doesn’t have much to do with the games themselves but it is pretty fun: Bell has created a free iOS and Android app called “Make It Epic” (look for this to launch shortly) which lets you shoot a short video of your friends engaged in the activity of your choice (anything from making breakfast to attempting a complex skateboard trick) and then isolate a portion of the video for the “Epic” treatment. Epic in this case means a super slo-motion effect accompanied by the Chariots of Fire theme. The results can be surprisingly hilarious. You can then share your creation using all of the typical choices including Facebook, Twitter, email etc.

Netflix launches in Canada

NetflixToday’s the day many Canadians have been waiting for. Netflix, the company that offers unlimited DVD and Blu-ray rentals in the U.S., has opened their virtual doors in Canada. While their product at launch isn’t exactly the same as south of the border, it is the first service of its kind and promises to shake up the video landscape. Here’s what was announced:

  • $7.99 CDN per month gets you unlimited access to Netflix’s online movie and TV database
  • First month free
  • 1/3 of the content that is available can be streamed in HD
  • There is no disc-based option at this time (streaming over the internet only)
  • Service is supported immediately on Wii, PS3, PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch
  • Xbox360 support coming later this fall
  • Some Blu-ray players from Toshiba and Samsung are already compatible
  • The service will work with Apple TV and several other devices once they launch in the Canadian market
  • The selection of movies and TV shows (which number in the thousands) are not new releases, but older “catalog” titles

There is really only one catch to Netflix’s offer: Since ISP price-plans vary wildly in terms of how fast your connection is and what your bandwidth cap is set at, consumers have to take a close look at their web-surfing habits so that their Netflix activity doesn’t end up costing them more due to overage charges. This will be especially important to monitor if you plan on streaming HD content – it doesn’t cost any more to do so from a Netflix perspective, but these movies will eat up a lot more of your internet bandwidth.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings responded to these concerns when interviewed by the CBC. He claims that in spite of evidence to the contrary, bandwidth caps should go up, not down, over time and will eventually cease to be issue for services like Netflix.

Interestingly, Blockbuster Video earlier this week launched a new price plan presumably aimed at people who like the idea of an all-you-can-watch pricing model, but who for whatever reason aren’t interested in Netflix or aren’t able to access it: $9.99 per month will let you rent as many DVDs or Blu-ray movies as you like, one title at a time. Similar to Netflix, the selection of titles is limited to their “favourites” category, which does not include new releases.

So Sync readers, what do you think? Has Netflix created the ultimate video-watching option, or do the bandwidth issues create too much of a headache? Or perhaps you’re content with the existing options you have with your cable or satellite provider? Do you think $7.99 is the right price for a service like this even if you can’t choose from new releases?

Update: On a related note, Netflix reportedly hired a group of actors to attend the launch event today in Toronto and instructed them to “… look really excited, particularly if asked by media to do any interviews about the prospect of Netflix in Canada.” Netflix later apologized for the gaffe, saying it shouldn’t have happened.

Update Nov 1, 2010: Netflix is now available on Xbox 360 in Canada: simply click on Netflix in the Video Marketplace on the Xbox 360 Dashboard.

Netflix streaming coming to Canada "this fall"

netflix.caAll we have at the moment is a fairly vauge press press release from the company saying:

Netflix, Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX), the leading Internet movie subscription service, today announced it will expand into Canada this fall offering unlimited movies and TV episodes streamed instantly to TVs and computers for one low monthly fee. The Canadian launch will mark the first availability of Netflix outside the United States.

Unlike Netflix in the U.S., the Canadian version appears to  be streaming-only, which means that if you were hoping for some disc-based competition for Zip.ca, you’re going to have to keep waiting at least for now.

While the company has yet to announce an actual date for the service to begin, you can sign-up at netflix.ca to be notified as soon as one is released.

The service will initially be English-only but the company expects to have a French version in the future.

In the U.S., Netflix streaming is available on several devices including all three major gaming consoles, net-connected Blu-ray players, connected TVs, PCs and even Apple’s iPad.

No word yet on which of these devices will be supported here in Canada, but let’s hope they’re able to extend all of these relationships.

In case you’re not familiar with Netflix’s service, they offer a subscription-based video streaming platform which gives members the ability to watch an unlimited number of TV shows and movies, in up to 1080p HD, for one flat fee which, in the U.S. is $8.99/month.

When they launch up here in Canada, they won’t be the first service to offer streaming video, since Xbox Live and Apple’s iTunes already let people do this, but they will be the first to offer a subscription based system that is available on more than one hardware platform, making them nearly ubiquitous.

Readers, if Netflix maintains the same price point here as in the U.S., will you be signing up with them once they launch?