NHL Gamecenter Live is an interesting product. I first tried it last year when the league offered it as a discount as a peace-making gesture to fans who were angry over what looks like an increasingly pointless lockout. As far as I can tell, the product remains unchanged, but the price this year rose to $169.00. That doesn't really matter to me, since I didn't have to pay it, but as an Ottawa Senators fan not located in the city of Ottawa, I'm definitely this product's intended audience. The price has always been my hangup in the past. After using it for two years, is this something I'd pay money for in the future?
- Game coverage - No way around this one. I get to watch Senators games. I don't have to deal with the risks of malware involved with illegally streaming through other websites.
- Multiple feeds - For the majority of games, I get a choice of feeds between home and road broadcasts. Again, this is not a choice that I have with illegal streams. I have to take whatever broadcast I can get. Given that I am a Sens fan, I tend to despise the biases of other color commentators.
- Top Quality - Most games are broadcast in HD or a quality close to it, and GCL provides the clearest picture I'm able to get. It actually allows users to choose the quality of the stream (or automatically adjust it) based on available bandwidth, but as I live in a first-world country, I have bandwidth to spare. And I have a top-end monitor, so the games look great.
- NHL Vault - This is simply a cool feature, especially for a fan like me who didn't grow up in Ottawa and got most of my early Sens news from box scores and short blurbs in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, or the occasional MSG broadcast when the team was playing the Buffalo Sabres or New York Rangers. It's been a real treat to go back and watch those games. I'm seeing them for the first time.
- Replays - This is an incredibly useful feature for a blogger, since it allows me to go back and watch the games at my leisure. I don't have to rely on my memory, but can actively watch plays as many times as I want. I'm not sure how often a regular fan would use this option, but it remains a great benefit to me.
- Login challenges - I had none of these last year, but have had significant issues this year getting to watch the games. I frequently have to clear my cookies and cache to get GCL to recognize that I've already paid--not more than an inconvenience for a tech-savvy user, but probably a major annoyance for a more casual fan who just wants to watch games. It's easy to imagine someone getting more and more irate as some 800-number tech support jockey walks them through the steps necessary to watch, all while knowing the clock is ticking in the first period. I really struggle with this one, because once I've paid for a service, I expect that service to work properly. That's why I paid for it. In fact, I had to log out to check the price and I'm dreading logging back in because of what a hassle it's been for me this year. But as I said, I had no problems with this last year.
- Game coverage - I don't get to watch every Ottawa Senators game with GCL, and that's a problem. Games are blacked out based on regional coverage. More than once, I've been told I can't watch a game because it's being locally broadcast--only to find that local broadcast is on NHL Network, a channel I don't (and can't) get. If NHL Network were available to me, I certainly wouldn't pay money to add it; I've already paid money for GCL. I want to watch my team play hockey, and I shouldn't have to double-dip to do it. Thankfully, since Atlanta doesn't have a hockey team, this is a pretty rare occurrence for me. I did encounter it in Denver for the game against the Anaheim Ducks, however, so it's already happened once this year.
- Delays - This is only an issue because I participate on S7S during Game Day Threads. That means I'm watching the game with people who are also watching the game, but GCL is always 1-3 seconds behind live play. I can't think of a good reason this should happen. During the playoffs, I was able to watch Senators games in real-time in HD on my TV through the exact same cable that's connected to my modem. I know the line is capable of handling the data that GCL requires to broadcast. There shouldn't be a reason the games aren't broadcast in real-time. It's an annoyance, because it limits my ability to enjoy the games with my fellow fans. This is easily my biggest gripe.
In addition, replays are generally not available until 48 hours after the game has ended. I'm not sure why this is, but it makes instant analysis a pain.
And that's about it. Overall, I get to watch most Senators games at high quality if I'm willing to put up with a few inconveniences. That means I'd describe Gamecenter Live as a decent product that does its job adequately. It is far superior to illegal streams, but comes at a cost far greater than their price point of "free." I do know that I'm willing to spend more than $169 to see the Senators play in person, so I'm not sure why the cost of Gamecenter Live gives me so much pause--but I also can't deny that it does.
Ultimately, at $169, I'd categorize Gamecenter Live as a luxury. If I had the disposable income readily at hand, I wouldn't hesitate to spend it on GCL. But it's not the only product in the marketplace, and the competition, however inferior, is offering a zero-cost alternative. I tend to believe that piracy is a reflection of the marketplace, and the fact that I'd even consider illegal alternatives to GCL tells me that the price point is too high .For $99, I would always find the money for this product. For $70 more, I can understand the motivation to find alternative methods of viewing games.
REMINDER: DISCUSSIONS ABOUT WHERE TO FIND ILLEGAL STREAMS AND LINKS TO ILLEGAL STREAMS ARE NOT ALLOWED ON SILVER SEVEN.