With the World Cup well underway, more and more people are choosing to watch online, with both ITV and BBC showing live coverage of each match on their websites.
I've been attempting to watch a few matches on both websites, and the BBC is the clear winner so far...
First of all, actually finding the live coverage on ITV.com is harder than it needs to be. It looks easy, since you see this screen when you arrive at the homepage during matches:
This looks simple enough, but it then takes a further three clicks until I reach this page (click image for larger version):
Then, it's a real challenge to find out what I need to click to actually watch the match which is why I arrived at this page in the first page.
Viewer polls, team line ups, player profiles etc, may be useful, but the 'watch match' link should be unmissable; instead it is in the yellow bar near the top of the screen marked 'watch and chat'.
This opens up the match in a small window. You have to watch a couple of minutes of ads first, which is fine since ITV needs to make money from the coverage, though it is annoying when you have to wait two minutes to start watching.
I wonder how effective these ads are for ITV, since many users must simply go to another tab or window and do something else while they wait for the ads to pass.
I also made the mistake of clicking on the instant replay while I waited for the ads to play out, which froze the whole page, meaning I had to refresh and start from scratch.
However, the worst thing about the online coverage is the quality. The small screen shown above isn't quite big enough to watch the game properly, but if you enlarge the coverage to full screen the resolution is not good enough and a blurry mess ensues.
Worse still, the coverage is jerky and needs to reload / buffer every few minutes. This screen became a familiar sight during the Ivory Coast v Portugal game:
A quick search on Twitter shows that I'm not the only one with complaints about ITV's online World Cup coverage. Here are a few of the many negative comments:
I swear the ITV online "live" stream keeps going down just so I have to reload and they can show me more ads. #itvfail #worldcup
One thing worse than ITV football coverage? ITV football coverage online.
It seems that ITV is as crap at online coverage as it is on the TV. Portugal game is jerky and so many adverts. BBC's is SOOOOO much better
ITV online is a pile of steaming ad-ridden turd. Best use tvcatchup.com for those games
ITV live online is terrible compared to the BBC stream. I want higher resolution instead of the ability to hear what ITV viewers think.
A big praise to BBC online streaming, quality is thousand times better than ITV's player.
By contrast, the quality of the BBC's coverage is excellent. I watched the whole of Italy v Paraguay without any glitches, and even in full-screen, the picture quality is excellent.
The BBC has similar findability issues though; if you find the live coverage via the BBC Sport section of the website, then you get a version which is accompanied by a Twitter feed, team news and stats, but the picture quality is inferior to that shown via iPlayer.
However, if you head for the iPlayer when a match is playing or about to start, there isn't a quick link to whatever is on TV now, so you need to hunt through today's schedules for the link to watch, though the beta version does at least have a link on the homepage.
ITV has gone to some effort to provide lots of stats and interactivity to set alongside its online coverage, but it needs to improve the core offering, by improving the quality and reliability of its live football coverage, as well as making it easier to find quickly.