By Charlotte Males
At first there was just one, but now, there are four major competitors for video streaming platforms for people wishing to extend their television options. So which one is best for the Internet-savvy sports fan?
It was only eight months ago that we wrote a comparison between Apple TV and Google Chromecast. That's how quickly the market has grown for these video streaming platforms. But, to compare all four equally, we need to define the areas of comparison. For the average sports fan, the three most important areas are generally video quality, what sports channels are available and price. So let's dive in.
First up is the original, Apple TV. Released in 2007, it has grown ever since with roughly 50 channels or apps. Some are only available in the U.K., but most are only offered in the U.S. Unfortunately, most of the sports channels do require a paid subscription. These include ESPN, MLB TV, MLS, NBA Game Time, NHL and WWE Network. All offer free highlights and scores, but if you want to watch a whole match or game, you will need a subscription.
There are only two completely free sports channels: Red Bull TV and ACC Sports. Added in March, ACC Sports is a video-heavy channel focuses on Atlantic Coast Conference sports, namely college basketball, football, baseball, soccer, volleyball and swimming.
Although many of the sports channels are subscription only, you are able to stream 1080p HD quality videos from your iOS device via Apple AirPlay. This means you are able to stream whatever is on your Apple Mac or other iOS device straight onto your TV via your Internet connection. Plus, you can access anything that's stored in your Cloud and show it on your TV.
Apple TV is great for the sports fan, but a negative is that as an Apple product, it only supports iOS devices. You can get an Apple TV for around $99.
Chromecast is the cheapest option on the market at $35. But with the small price tag comes small options. Sadly for U.S. sports fans, ESPN is not supported on Chromecast. But the good news for sports fans in the UK is that BT Sports announced its partnership with the device. However, UK fans will need a subscription with BT Sports to be able to watch the channel.
A supported channel for both U.S. and U.K. is the Red Bull TV, which is free. Although the major sports channels are not available officially, like the Apple TV, Chromecast lets you stream what's on your on computer or tablet via your Wi-Fi onto the big screen. So there is a potential shortcut, but just remember the video quality is dependent on the speed of your Internet connection. Google Chromecast does support 1080p crisp quality and will adjust the video quality to the speed of the Internet it receives.
Amazon Fire TV
Not a company to shy away from making a grand entrance, Amazon released Fire TV on April 2, and it has already made a splash in the market. It's a lot faster than any of the other set top boxes on the market and has great picture quality. Amazon Fire TV has a set remote that comes with the $99 price tag, but it does a have a voice control feature. So you are able to search for TV shows, movies or even games by simply speaking into the remote control.
Amazon Fire TV provides access to WatchESPN, Red Bull TV and the ACC Digital Network, as well as a whole range of sports movies from Amazon Instant Video. Amazon has said additional services including WWE Network and MLB.TV will be coming soon. Again, most of those will need a subscription.
Last but certainly not least is Roku. Just like the others Roku boasts a great 1080p video quality streamed via your Wi-FI network. Its top model has the same price tag as the Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV at $99. Although it is at the high end of the market, Roku should not be written off.
Roku has the most sporting channels or apps compared to any other video streaming platform. (You can find a full list here). Roku has the more common channels like ESPN, MLB TV, MLS, NBA Game Time, NHL and WWE Network. But it also has the UFC, surfing, Lakers Nation and even fishing channels. Although a lot of these channels provide highlights and scores, Roku has by far the most varied sport channels. Roku also gives good news to U.K. sports fans, as it streams Sky Sports through Sky's Now TV service.
The biggest difference separating Roku from the other platforms is the variety of hardware. There are four different types of Roku box sets with the top of the line being five times faster than the least expensive. There is also an option to purchase one with a headphone jack so user’s can have a more private experience if desired. The boxes range from $49.00-$99.99.
Breaking It Down
After considering all four platforms, just for the variety and amount of sports that is available, Roku would be the most suited to sports fans. Although it has a high price tag, the amount of sports you get is superior to the other streaming options. However, watch out for Amazon Fire TV, with the introduction of their own app store, plus music and video provider.