As a fan of one of “the other 14” clubs in the Premier League (the ones outside of The Big 6), NBC Sports Gold’s Premier League Pass service is a must-have by necessity if you want to watch every game that your club plays during the 2017/18 season. In all, the estimate is that more than 35% of many team’s games will be viewable only through Premier League Pass this season. Your mileage may vary.
After taking Premier League Pass for a test drive this past weekend, here are my first impressions.
Signing up for NBC Sports Gold was a cinch. The cost is $49.99 per season. Just as I’ve written before, the price isn’t the issue. The fact that NBC Sports has delivered an in-between solution that doesn’t satisfy the cord cutters nor the TV subscribers is the problem, but that’s another story for another post.
The user experience
The best word to describe the Premier League Pass service so far is clunky.
After signing up for Premier League Pass on my laptop, the first place I went to was NBCSportsGold.com. But even though I had already signed up and paid, I still got prompted on that page (and continue to do so) to buy a Premier League Pass.
Instead, I had to click the yellow ‘Watch now’ button, which took me to nbcsports.com/gold. For future reference in order to avoid making the same mistake I made, just bookmark nbcsports.com/gold not NBCSportsGold.com to access your paid content.
When I did try to watch a live program (other than a game) for the first time, I was asked to log in to NBC Sports Gold once again (probably because the content was hosted on the stream.nbcsports.com server) even though I was already logged into the NBCSportsGold.com website. You would think that NBC Sports would have more of a seamless experience built for their paying customers.
Also when I tried to watch Premier League News, the stream had no audio at all. When the audio did pick up more than five minutes later, the audio and video were completely out of sync. Minutes later, the audio/video sync issue was corrected during the live program (which could have been a mistake by Premier League Productions, not NBC Sports). Still, however, it wasn’t a good first impression despite the Premier League News show itself being very informative.
At the conclusion of the live Premier League News program I watched on Monday, the stream starting showing the opening seconds of the Big Match Preview program hosted by Mark Pougatch where he began to discuss the Spurs-Chelsea match this weekend. Seconds later, and NBC Sports unfortunately stopped the stream. And as far as I know, there are no plans to offer Big Match Preview to Premier League Pass subscribers. More frustration.
Also, while the upcoming schedule of content on Premier League Pass is long and impressive, it’s not as easy to find the shows that have already aired. You can go to the full-event replays section, but you have to scroll past content for track and field, cycling and rugby to find the soccer content. Yes, you can use the drop-down navigation to select Premier League to filter out the other sports, but it’s another step. In addition to that, having a tab displayed on the website that says “Relive TDF’17” (for Tour de France) is overkill. Again, I didn’t subscribe to the cycling pass and I have zero interest in it, so why is it displayed on the main navigation when NBC Sports knows I’m not a subscriber to that service?
Last but not least, another way to watch the NBC Sports Gold content is through the NBCSports.com/live website where you can try to sort through what you can and can’t watch (the clips/highlights section is more accessible there).
Speaking of highlights, on the Premier League Pass page at nbcsports.com/gold page, if you click on the ‘Highlights’ tab, you would expect to see a menu of highlights that are available to you from Premier League matches. Instead, there are no soccer highlights featured. All you see are links to highlights for rugby, track and field and cycling (see screengrab below).
With Premier League Pass, however, you can watch all 10 games available on replay under the NBCSports.com/gold website (under ‘Full event replays.’)
The match experience
The most important part of Premier League Pass is the matchday experience, and this is where the paid subscription service works best.
Thankfully, there are no banner advertisements and no spoilers to be found on Premier League Pass.
For me, personally, I was on the road this past Saturday so I wasn’t able to watch the Southampton-Swansea game live. But after returning home and avoiding all spoilers, the first thing I did was fire up the NBC Sports Gold app on the Roku, and then activated the app by entering a series of digits to verify that I was a Premier League Pass subscriber.
I was extremely thankful that the Southampton-Swansea match played as promised without any issues. After exiting the app to take a break and returning to the game later, the NBC Sports Gold app on the Roku asked me if I wanted to continue watching where I left off or to restart the game, which is a fantastic feature.
At half time during the game, there were no commercials. Instead there were the Match Stats from the first half, followed by an interview with a former footballer.
The video quality of the match itself was satisfactory. I didn’t experience any buffering (although it was an on-demand match, not live).
Overall, NBC’s Premier League Pass is a workable streaming package that does a decent job at providing the live and on-demand games, but the rest of the product seems rushed. The promise of more than 1,000 hours of content throughout the season via Premier League Pass is admirable, but the decision by NBC Sports to only provide a portion of the programming from Premier League Productions instead of everything is a disappointment. Having said that, the programming currently offered outside of games is good to have on in the background while you’re working (or studying).
If you really want to watch your teams play when they’re featured on Premier League Pass, go ahead and buy it. But don’t expect to be wowed by the current way that the programming is served up.