About

TelevisionWeek contributing writer Daisy Whitney is blogging about the pinnacles and pitfalls facing viewers who want to consume television in new ways. Check in frequently as Daisy kicks the tires on the new media juggernaut and dishes on which services do -- and don’t -- make the cut.

Categories

Trial and Error



CSTV -- Testing College Football Streams

September 6, 2006 1:57 PM

After the kickoff of college football this past weekend, the CSTV Network touted that its new online network of nearly 250 college athletic Web sites had garnered 6.4 million page views on Saturday Sept. 2, representing a 14 percent rise over last year. Since the network just launched those sites last week, I decide to kick the tires.
I was interested after reporting a story http://www.tvweek.com/news.cms?newsId=10656)

To get started, I go to CSTV.com first. I do a quick scan and spot a link promoting “Over 100 channels of college sports live and on demand.” I click through, launching a good-looking video player that’s nearly full screen and contains menu items for live events, football, women’s volleyball, women’s soccer, men’s soccer and all sports. The channel listings menu includes a host of colleges. I’m surprised that it contains one for Brown, since my alma mater tended to make its mark on the football field through the goofy irreverence of the marching band rather than any athletic antics. However, the Brown channel displays a message telling me that no content has been found that matches my criteria. I then pick Colorado State University, my husband’s alma matter. Same message there too.

Let’s try one more school. How about the Michigan channel? Once again it’s content-less. I make sure to visit all the options – past games, coach’s show, archives – for the three colleges. Same message always.

I e-mail the spokesman for CSTV, who promptly replies that the site includes links to about 200 individual college sites listed under the left side of the page under “partners.”

I call him and while on the phone I scroll through the partners list on the home page. Auburn’s a college football powerhouse, so I go there. The archives section spits back the same message. I try University of Southern California and déjà vu strikes again.

He suggests Notre Dame. Since it’s a huge sports school, I go back to the main page and give it a shot. Something finally happens. I am transported to www.und.cstv.com. I don’t spot a video player. The spokesman tells me to click on the link on the right hand side for “All Access.” Who would have thought?

Nothing happens. He says he will look into it and call me back.

As I wait I think, what the heck – let’s try one more time. I do and the link works. At last! It shoots me to the same style player I accessed from the first way in. I try the coach’s show feature. Nothing happens. I click on interview and see a video clip option from 8/18. But when I click on it, a message tells me the event hasn’t begun so I should try again later. I soldier on, clicking on “football” from the main menu bar in the video player. Once more, I click on a video from a 9/6 press conference. It plays.

Still, I’m pretty much maxed out on this scavenger hunt.

The spokesman puts CSTV President Brian Bedol on the phone. He walks me through the USC channel, which is easier to access and features more videos that actually play. He also explains that most site users will access the broadband channels through the “teams” link. The server I accessed the channels through may not be pulling all the content yet, but the videos can be found when users navigate via the “teams” link, he says.

“This is a first generation product,” he says. “We are really in this part of beta where every day we are learning about things that need to be tweaked. It’s a complex platform and we are thrilled with what it does and fully recognize there is a lot more we want to do.”

I also learn later that Brown didn’t have any games last week.

Kudos to CSTV for being frank about drawbacks in the service and for getting an offering into the marketplace timed to the college football season.

However, I can only hope that college football fans – and I’m not one of them – are willing to jump through the technical hoops they may encounter.

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.tvweek.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/1488

Comments (2)

Aaron:

I concur. I've been checking into CSTV.com for a year and the features have never worked for me... i.e. not the video player for actual games (the advertisments play fine), nor real-time audio of any game. I've tried football, women's soccer, hockey, and volleyball from several different schools, plus every combination of firewall-cookie-security settings that I can figure, including the no-firewall, accept-all-cookies, allow-viruses, invite-spyware setting. Still nothing.
And, like everyone else I know, I don't give a hoo-hoo about Notre Dame, so I'm not keen on watching online-NBC via the internet, even if CSTV does work successfully for broadcasts of ND athletics. Instead, I want to watch Northern Obscure University win a triathalon in clam digging, yawning, and knuckle cracking. And I'm willing to pay for it, which shouldn't be a problem, because when someone wants to pay, there is usually someone who is willing to sell.
However, the fact that I have been unable to pay anything, I believe, is really the most telling thing about this site. I have never seen a place where I can put in my credit card number. If I could lose some money to CSTV, then I would have grounds to complain. Unfortunately, this site is so beta, its pre-alpha, just as the article above says, "This is a first-generation product." CSTV.com is clearly not even close to being ready for the Big Show.
I've waited long enough. Like the author above, I am also done with it, and I recommend that others not waste their time with it either. And if a place ever does appear where a credit-card number could be entered, I would say don't do it... unless you want to waste your money, too.

John:

As far as I can tell, there has been no improvement in CSTV All-Access since these comments above were written. Finding the desired content is a maddening website obstacle course. (Why is the default menu for most programming "All Future Dates" when there are no such events like that to watch?). Once I find the press conference I want to see, the commercials play without a problem, but when the live and/or archived content plays, it sends the player into repeated looping and freezes the browser. The CSTV customer service people are wonderful, and I have had multiple 30+-minute conversations with them. I have tried all their adjustments to my computers (like "go back to Windows Media Player 10" and other settings) without any improvement. Their response is that this is the first they have ever heard of any problems like mine (the same ones described in the content here from months ago.) I have cancelled my subscription but would gladly pay to see this content. Sad.

Post a comment