A couple of months ago I did an interview with the guys at SEN regarding sports apps. At the time, the AFL was clearly lagging behind the standard set by the Australian Open tennis and Cricket Australia. But with the new season approaching the AFL had an ace up their sleeve – their new broadcast agreement brought with it the live broadcast of all games to mobile devices. I loved the concept! Suddenly I had every game available at my fingertips. So I was quick to jump on the AFL's $50 season subscription. However I was also somewhat apprehensive given the AFL's clumsy attempts at mobile in the past. And based on my first experiences with the app over the weekend, that skepticism was unfortunately very well placed..
To be fair, my initial impressions of the app were actually great. I fired it up on Thursday night while I was out to catch some of the Carlton v Richmond game, and got an immediate stream of the live action. The picture quality was good and the stream remained uninterrupted for the entire first quarter. If they could manage the load for a blockbuster game like Carlton v Richmond, it surely bode well for other games. Or so I thought…
On Saturday I decided to test AFL Live out on my iPad. After all, the primary reason I bought the app was for iPad viewing, which I planned to then stream to my TV. As a keen Supercoach enthusiast, I had an interest in the Adelaide v Gold Coast on Saturday afternoon, having selected Gary Ablett as my captain. But I was surely in the minority. It was perhaps the lowest profile game of the round. So I loaded the app up on my iPad, and waited…
And waited. Which set the tone for the performance of the app for the rest of the weekend, during which I spent more time watching the load screen than I did watching footy. When I finally did manage to catch a feed, the picture quality on the iPad was horrendous, instantly killing any plans of streaming it a larger screen.
By Sunday I was perturbed enough by the lack of performance to see what others were saying about the app. It wasn't good…
— Matt Carroll (@mdsc33) March 31, 2012
— Aman Talwar (@AmanTalwar) March 31, 2012
— tt (@TeeTeeDT) April 2, 2012
— richardorford (@richardorford) April 1, 2012
the official AFL live app is a piece of shit. Takes forever to load. Anyone know if there's a better one?
— DJ Sheriff Rosco (@TopBillinRadio) March 31, 2012
— ChewbaccaOnTap (@chewbaccaOntap) March 31, 2012
@AFL what's the go with the afl live app nothing loads up barely all day paid 50 for a season pass and can't even use it.
— Luke Sultan (@LukeSultan) March 31, 2012
So, @AFL does your iPad app ever like to.. You know, work?
— Capey (@lukecaporn) March 31, 2012
Disappointed with the Official @AFL Live iPhone app. Too congested last night, didn't work. Couldn't listen to live radio.
— Tim (@skramit) April 1, 2012
— Brenton Cleeland (@sesh) April 1, 2012
It was a similar story when I ventured to the iTunes store to check out the most recent reviews. Only 4 reviews had been written over the weekend, but all were scathing in the lack of performance from the AFL's new app.
Now… I'm willing to give the AFL some leeway. I work in technology and I know things can go wrong when a new product is launched. But many others will lack my perspective, particularly when they've paid reasonable money for the service. The reality is that as soon as someone pays money for an app, they expert it to work. And when you pay $50 for an app, which is at the absolute premium end of app pricing, the expectation is that it will be flawless, particularly when the app is backed by organisations of the size of the AFL and Telstra.
There is no questions that the AFL's Live app was sub-standard in Round 1. The question now is how (or whether) they'll respond. I'll be watching closely this weekend to see whether I've truly been duped.