American Soccer Fans: Can Internet Television Save The Day?

by twhalliii
August 18, 2006 2:33 AM
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I have to admit, with the heat receding in the city, pre-season football on TV, the absence of friends from the city on the weekends; Autumn, the official season of The Back Row Manifesto, is on the way. Before the leaves fall from the trees and the coats and sweaters come out, there is a significant annual milestone that needs to be reached in order to fulfill the obligations of August; The kick-off of the English Premier League.

I have already heard complaints from some friends that The BRM is a "film blog" and should only talk about film, but I don't subscribe to that rule. August is estivation time for me; I can barely be bothered to head to the movies (there are some quality independent releases like The Illusionist, Factotum and The Night Listener, but I caught them at Sundance) and there seems to be a dearth of foreign titles, although The Pusher trilogy, which opens today, is one of the best film series I have ever seen (I will be seeing it again in theaters) and King Leopold's Ghost looks terrific; There is no film grabbing me by the collar and impelling me to theaters, and with six-a-days and my favorite festival (Poison Friends!!! Can't wait!!!) on the horizon, I am more inclined to take it slow. This is the off-season.

But the season starts in England, where this weekend Liverpool (and our bevy of new signings) follow up on last weekend's 2-1 Charity Shield victory over the money-splashing Blues of Che£$ea with our first game of the Premiership season; Sheffield United, home at Anfield. I know a lot of folks who loved the World Cup and are looking to get into soccer this fall, and there is no better time than this weekend to start watching games and letting your club find you; after seeing teams play a few times, you'll start to gravitate toward a club. If you're not sure where to start, ESPN.com's Bill Simmons has created an excellent primer (with mixed but hilarious results) for those looking to adopt a team and learn to love soccer football.

Of course, many of us living without DirecTV dishes will have a hard time seeing many of the matches this season; with the English Premiership splitting its games between the Fox Soccer Channel (available on most urban digital cable systems) and Setanta Sports (which is only available on DirecTV), most folks will have to head out to the pubs to watch the matches. But not anymore.

Earlier this week, I discovered an amazing special offer; if you order ITVN service with the Setanta Sports package for $15 a month, you will be able to watch the Premiership on television by using a broadband internet connection and the (free) ITVN box. In previous years, these games were on Pay-Per-View, and at $19.95 per game (with two games a weekend), many fans would spend literally thousands of dollars a season to catch the big games, either at home or at the pubs, who were forced to charge cover to pay for the rights to show the pay-per-view games. For fans learning the game and hoping to watch exciting football matches, spending $40 a weekend to watch and learn about a new sport is not just daunting, it was a total disincentive. Hopefully, the move to Setanta Sports will change all of that and ITVN is a great alternative for most city dwellers who don't have the right to hang a dish outside. Yes, you'll need to keep your cable, but now, you'll be able to see all of the games for about $150 less per month than in the PPV era. I had to try it.

My box arrived today and I was really excited to see how this works. It's pretty simple and I decided to prove it...

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The ITVN Package

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Step 1. Plug in the ITVN Receiver. Check.

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Step 2: Connect an ethernet cable into the back of the ITVN box.* Easy enough.


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Step 3: Connect the ITVN to your TV via S-Video, or in the case of this old TV, a three-stranded cable. As you can see, you can also use RGB. This took about 20 seconds.

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Step 4: Turn on the TV and Voila! Internet Television! I had to update the box, which took about a minute and, after re-starting the box...

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Setanta Sports At Home!!!!

I have never seen a product that is as easy to use and delivers exactly what it promises. The entire installation process (including photography) took 4 minutes and I suggest that all footie fans without dish access should grab this nifty service now. I couldn't be more excited for the start of the season nor happier with a product. Of course, the picture is not on par with DirecTV or digital cable; it resembles high quality internet streaming (which it is), but it works well, is steady, and is certainly worth the $15 a month. Plus, it should work when it rains and I can take my ITVN box with me wherever I go, connect it to an ethernet cable, and I have footie on any TV with a standard connector. It's portable!

I am so excited... bring on the season...


* For those without a big, long cable, I think a G Band Wireless gaming adaptor should work to deliver a wireless signal to the ITVN box and allow you to forgo proximity to your internet connection (not sure if this works), but just to be safe I wired my bedroom straight from the router.

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