Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! This is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to basketball video games, the real NBA or another area of interest to our community, either as a list of five items or in the form of a Top 5 countdown.
The 2015 NBA Finals are underway, and if Game 1 is any indication, we could be in for a great finish to another action-packed season. This is the first season I’ve watched on NBA League Pass Broadband, and I have to say, I wasn’t disappointed with my decision to subscribe. It made it a lot easier to catch Chicago Bulls games, and see a lot more of the action than I ever have before, either on Australian free-to-air television back in the day, or via a subscription to Foxtel in more recent years.
I’ll try not to sound too much like a commercial for the service here, and I promise that I’m not being paid to write anything about NBA League Pass Broadband, but as I offer up a few opinions after a season subscribing to it, it may be difficult not to gush a little. I really am very satisfied with League Pass – for the most part – and would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to get as much NBA coverage as possible. So, without any further ado, here are five thoughts on NBA League Pass Broadband!
1. My 12 Year Old Self Would Be Jealous
I love basketball. I’d also say that I love it as much as I ever have. I wouldn’t be watching games, reading articles, checking on stats, playing basketball video games, running a website about basketball video games, and buying merchandise, if I didn’t still love this game; yes, I know that’s no longer the league’s slogan, but it’s the one I grew up with. And speaking of growing up as an NBA fan, as much as I do still love basketball, nothing can quite compare to that childhood enthusiasm. When you don’t have to worry about earning money and paying bills, that fanaticism can easily consume you. I’m sure that a lot of people in my life were very patient with me back then, as I rattled off stats, trivia, and play-by-play accounts of my favourite moments.
My 12 year old self would’ve loved the access to the NBA that League Pass Broadband provides. Back in the mid to late 90s, when the Ten Network here in Australia was still showing a Game of the Week and NBA Action, they were usually airing them on delay in the early hours of the morning. I fondly recall staying up late to watch them, or setting the VCR to record them, hoping that the times in the TV guide were correct; sometimes, they were not. There’s no question that kid would be jealous of all these easily accessible live NBA games…in fact, my 19 year old self is jealous of not having to wait for my cousin to deliver games he’d recorded for me. My 29 year old self is jealous of not having to rely on ESPN Australia’s selection! It’s fantastic…and there’s another old NBA slogan for you.
2. All Those Choices, And I Picked The Bulls
When I subscribed to NBA League Pass Broadband, I was looking forward to catching all the big match-ups, throughout the season and Playoffs. I also figured that I’d be checking in on the Chicago Bulls fairly regularly, being my favourite team and all. As it turned out, while I did make sure that I caught some marquee games featuring a variety of teams, a majority of the games that I watched were Bulls games. On one hand, I feel like I probably missed out on seeing some memorable moments happen live by choosing so many Bulls games. On the other hand, they are my favourite team, it was refreshing to be able to watch any Bulls game that I wanted, and I did feel that I got my money’s worth.
Next season, I’m going to be a bit more proactive in catching games that don’t feature the Bulls, though I expect I’ll still try to watch as many Bulls games as possible. Since I’m subscribing to the premium package, I want to make better use of all the extra content: catch some recap shows and specials, some more post-game press conferences, video vault content, and so on. Again, I do feel like I got my money’s worth this year – for a lot less than I was paying for my monthly Foxtel subscription, I enjoyed the best coverage I’ve ever experienced – but I was a bit single-minded in my viewing habits for much of the season. I guess it was a bit of a hangover from wishing that ESPN Australia had shown more Bulls games in the ten years I had Foxtel.
3. It’s Pleasingly Reliable
There are a couple of reasons that I only just subscribed to NBA League Pass Broadband this season. The main one is that I didn’t have a really fast Internet connection until a couple of years ago (and it’s only fast by Australian standards, mind you), so streaming services weren’t really an appealing option. On top of that, I’d heard horror stories about the service being buggy and unreliable, with frequent buffering and quality issues, users getting logged out midway through watching a game, and other irritating technical problems.
Either those stories were isolated cases, or the league has spent time and money fixing up technical issues with NBA League Pass Broadband, because I was very pleased with its reliability throughout the 2015 season. Whether it was a local broadcast of a fairly insignificant regular season game, a marquee match-up on national television, or a big Playoff game – including Game 1 of the Finals – I haven’t run into many problems at all. Occasionally there’s been some buffering, a couple of times I’ve had to log out and log back in again, but these things do happen, and those moments were few and far between. Whatever problems it may have had in the past, NBA League Pass Broadband is pretty stable these days, at least in my experience.
4. Better On-Demand/Vault Content Is Needed
Unfortunately, it’s not all good news with NBA League Pass Broadband. As I mentioned before, as I continue to subscribe to League Pass, my aim is to get the most bang for my buck, including making better use of the video vault content. The problem is, that content is pretty limited. Granted, there’s usually a few pages worth of vault content whenever you log in, but it’s editor’s choice, and only available to watch until it’s replaced by a new selection. In short, there’s on-demand content, but your choices are very limited.
Compare that to the WWE Network, which I also subscribe to; yes, I watch professional wrestling, and no, it’s not real to me, damn it. During the season, the NBA’s daily offering of live content is much greater (and real sport, obviously), but the quality of WWE’s on-demand vault content is far better: every pay-per-view event in their library, documentaries and profiles that have previously been released on VHS and DVD, original programming and features. NBA League Pass Broadband has some of that, but not enough, and not necessarily when you want it. With the NBA’s rich history and video library, including classic games, player profile videos, old episodes of NBA Action and so on, they should be doing the same thing, offering fans the opportunity to dig into the vault and watch that stuff whenever they want.
5. For International Fans, It’s The Way To Go
As I understand it, while basketball fans in the United States can get a lot of extra coverage out of League Pass, there is the issue of television deals leading to blackouts in favour of local and national broadcasts. Of course, there’s also the benefit of having those broadcasts in the first place, which we international fans obviously don’t. In any event, there aren’t any blackouts for NBA League Pass Broadband subscribers outside the US, and it hands down beats the alternatives, at least here in Australia.
Obviously, you need to have a good, reliable Internet connection, and the means to pay for the subscription. There are a few different packages available, and for me, the premium package isn’t busting my budget at around $37 AUS a month, less than half of what I was paying for Foxtel for far better content. While I would like to see more on-demand historical content, and perhaps some more original programming and specials, I’m extremely satisfied with NBA League Pass Broadband. Again, I’m not getting paid to write this, there’s nothing in it for me to be talking up the service. But as someone who has greatly enjoyed League Pass, and wish that I’d subscribed to it a couple of years ago…if you’re living outside the US and want to maximise the NBA coverage you’re consuming, by all means, I definitely suggest looking into it.
Do you subscribe to NBA League Pass Broadband, or are you considering it? If you are a subscriber, what have your experiences with the service been like? Have your say in the comments section below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! Thanks for checking in this week, please join me again next Friday for another Five.