The highlight packages are well done.
While we’ve experienced NBA League Pass through DirecTV in the past, we’ve never had the chance to check out the Game Time app with NBA Broadband until recently. To be clear, the app itself is free, but to watch full games you’ll need to pony up for the Broadband League Pass — the cost is either US$199 for access to all 30 teams or US$140 to watch any five teams of your choice.
The app is available on numerous platforms (iOS, Roku, PlayStation, etc.), but for the purposes of this review we’ll be focusing on the Xbox 360 version.
- Cost: While the 30-team cost for Broadband is identical to the cable/satellite League Pass, we’d think most fans primarily follow one or two teams. Assuming this is the case, you save US$60 by picking the five-team option. Plus, the service automatically records each game.
- Convenience: There’s no way to forget to set the DVR, and you can pick up the game from any point. All games remain available to replay throughout the season as well.
- Layout: The Windows-esque tiles do a good job of segmenting your available viewing options, dividing them into various highlight packages and full games on monthly calendars.
- Home/Road Feeds: As with the MLB app, Game Time allows you to freely toggle between the home and road broadcasts at any time during the game (assuming it’s airing in both markets). This is invaluable if you want to get away from some of the NBA’s biggest homers — we’re looking at you, Sean Elliot and Tommy Heinsohn.
- Scanning: One of our favourite things about MLB was that the timeline marked significant moments so you could easily jump to key parts of the game. With Game Time all you can do is fast-forward and rewind, which is a little annoying if all you want to watch is the fourth quarter or the last two minutes or something along those lines. It’s also tough to go back or forward just a few moments, though the skip feature takes you forward 60 seconds or backward 30 with a single press.
- Background Music: During menu browsing and commercial breaks (in which all you see is an in-game box score) you’re bombarded with the worst, generic-sounding music imaginable. It wouldn’t be so bad if there was an option to disable it. Sadly, however, none exists and you’re left to either live with it or mute your television (Pro Tip: Keep your remote handy).
- Stability: Multiple times we’ve tried to watch live games only to have the app fail and boot us out, or get in some weird loop in which the timeline would become jumbled and we’d watch a 42-35 game suddenly go back to 8-6. It’s worth noting that this issue has been more prevalent during East Coast starts when more teams are playing. West Coast tilts tend to fare considerably better.
- Picture Quality: When things are streaming smoothly the picture is absolutely HD quality. Unlike MLB, the NBA app never seems to get that ultra-pixilated look. Instead, though, things will sort of grind to a halt and then suddenly play very fast as the feed catches up. It looks awkward, and we’re far from convinced this is a better alternative than seeing poorer quality in a steadier stream.
When the Game Time app with Broadband League Pass is working, it’s a great service. You can watch out-of-market teams with the announcers of your choice, and the ability to access all the games whenever you want is a godsend to those with busy schedules. Unfortunately, the service doesn’t always work as intended. Given the size and financial wherewithal of the NBA, it’s pretty frustrating when the issue seems to be a lack of dedicated bandwidth.