Experiments in IPTV

Combining two of my current obsessions (soccer and technology), I am experimenting with an IPTV provider to get access to my beloved Champions League. Last year, we got our CL action through a subscription to a Real service. We had all the games on demand through streaming, and I just fed the signal through my laptop to the TV.

It was an imperfect solution – the games were completely inaccessible due to poor quality until a few days after they had been played, and the picture quality was often so poor that we were cheering on maroon blobs against blue blobs. However, entire games (as well as really well done ten minute highlight shows) on demand made it possible to follow every game in the championship.

This year, uefa.com has gone with a Windows Media streaming option which, due to the DRM involved, makes it impossible to access their service on anything but a Windows machine. After much cursing, another option had to be found.

The option we chose is ITVN, an IPTV provider. They send you a set-top box which plugs in to your ethernet connection at one end and your tv at the other. We’ve ordered the Irish soccer and rugby channel Setanta (ITVN also offers movies, music and porn as separate monthly packages, which we haven’t ordered).

We run the feed through our old school VCR so we can record games during the day, though it now seems that Setanta via ITVN will be offering on demand games shortly. If they offer everything on demand, this solution will finally be exactly what we want. The only trouble is that they seem to not be showing any Barcelona games.

The picture quality is as good as our crappy old tv can handle, and we could easily spend an obscene amount of time watching soccer thanks to this service. As I type, I’m half paying attention to the Le Mans-Nancy game (French League).

As much as my preference for IPTV is to have it through my laptop, bypassing any other hardware, if on demand programming becomes available, this solution seems to be ideal for what we need at this time.

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