We’ve been pretty critical of the channels offered on streaming media players such as Roku and Apple TV. The over-the-top content can be outdated, lacking dates all together (so you have no idea when a game or news clip was broadcast), and some channels lack any content at all. With the exception of services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus and HBO Go, network programming through app-based channels just isn’t as good as traditional broadcasting.
But we see good things ahead for Watch ESPN. Along with short clips of sports news like Richard Sherman’s comments on Donald Sterling and the Patriot’s new ‘Jersey Guarantee,’ the app-based channel includes live feeds from various sporting events covered on ESPN 3.
This is what’s happening (or has broadcast already) today: A live broadcast of the Somerset Patriots vs. the Sugar Land Skeeters in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball; the Mutua Madrid Open from the Association of Tennis Professionals; NCAA Softball with North Carolina vs. North Carolina State (Quarterfinal #1); and a press conference with Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola. That’s what’s on ESPN3.
The channel also offers live TV shows from ESPN and ESPN2, but a lot of that programming is locked until you activate your TV service. A few of the TV providers that let you unlock the content include AT&T U-verse, DISH, Comcast Xfinity, and Time Warner Cable. But while the list includes over a dozen providers, it doesn’t include DIRECTV or Cablevision.
This is especially disappointing for WatchESPN app users on tablets and phones, which from our experience won’t let you access any content without activating your TV service.
The WatchESPN channel for media players also gives you access to replays. For example, you could watch a Yale vs. Harvard lacrosse game, NCAA baseball game between South Carolina and Georgia, or UEFA Europa League semifinal soccer match between Juventus and Benefica.
Other categories on the channel include Must See Moments and ESPN Originals. You can also browse by ESPN’s many sibling networks including ESPN 2, ESPN3, ESPNU as well as many others.
Granted, ESPN needs to do a better job at labeling their content. Not everything is “Live Now” as indicated by the program description. They don’t give you the time zones in Eastern or Pacific. And, if a live program is NOT happening you’ll be sitting on a screen that informs you “Your event is about to begin. Please stand by.” for as long as it takes to start. This could mean hours or even days.
The video quality of the shows is decent, but of course also depends on the quality of the actual broadcast before reaching internet compression. Audio, however, can be all over the place – a criticism of most content channels on Roku in general.
The WatchESPN app for Roku is one of the better channels, if only they can get DIRECTV to sign up.
The app is available for Apple TV, Roku, and Fire TV. (The app is not currently available on Chromecast, although individual ESPN channels are included with PlayOn.)