For many years, sports fans have had to rely on broadcast TV to deliver their competitive action of choice. And that’s great if you’re able to organise your life around your sport – being home at the right time, having a high tolerance for endless ad breaks on free-to-air, and having a satellite TV installation for the many sports you simply won’t find on the regular channels.
The TV and movie industries got caught by surprise and turned upside down by the rapid rise of streaming, and it’s not a surprise to anyone that sport of all kinds is the next thing to get some healthy competition from the internet. It’s not as though the idea is especially new, either – enthusiastic fans have been streaming sport in various ways for years now, whether it be watching the AFL on a mobile phone or catching the latest Supercars action via free to air streaming provider TenPlay. Even Amazon Prime Video got in on the act, regularly streaming American football and the occasional ATP tennis tournament in crisp high definition.
Sports Streaming in Australia
What’s really shaken things up, though, is the arrival of Kayo – Australia’s first dedicated sports streaming service, something sports-mad Aussies have been hanging out for since streaming video went mainstream. Kayo have the vast resources of the Fox Sports network behind it and all the exclusive sports access that brings, including beIN Sports and ESPN. A review of Kayo Sports reveals it’s a one-stop streaming shop for every kind of sport under the sun, all available live, delayed or on demand. It’s incredibly well done and keenly priced at a modest $25 per month. Needless to say, it’s been an instant success.
Streaming sport isn’t quite the same as streaming movies and TV, though. While streaming giants Netflix, Stan and Amazon have to figure out the best way to stream high quality video and audio at up to 4K quality, streaming sport even at 1080p HD can be a far more demanding proposition. For starters, there’s more frames per second to deal with; most TV and movie content on Netflix runs at 24 frames per second, but sport needs far more real-time accuracy than that. Increasingly, sport is captured by cameras at 50 or 60 frames per second, and that means extra data demands when streaming. On top of that, sport is streamed either live or near-live – there’s no time to carefully optimise the stream to use as little data as possible like Netflix does. For the best possible picture quality, the streaming data rate needs to be as high as possible – and that means that for customers, a fast, reliable broadband connection is a must.
On top of that, Kayo’s excellent special features can demand even more bandwidth – for example, the easy to use Split Screen mode (which is both great fun and surprisingly useful) can ramp up the data usage considerably.
Much of this also applies to streaming live sport on other platforms as well, of course – Foxtel Now, for example, plays best with a nice fast broadband connection (though it doesn’t use as high a data rate as Kayo does). Fetch TV’s live sports channels need a reliable connection to stream smoothly – indeed, any live TV streaming is going to be potentially sent into the dreaded world of buffering if you don’t choose a broadband plan wisely.
So what are the key things to look for in a broadband bundle where your main goal is to stream live sport?
It might sound like a no-brainer, but with live sport streaming, you don’t want to compromise on available download speed. It’s one thing to be able to stream Netflix flawlessly, but a much greater challenge to stream live sport in HD, and the speed of your connection is going to play a huge role in how smoothly that goes. Fortunately, with the NBN rolling out to more and more homes, access to fast but well-priced plans is available across the various NBN technologies. A speed tier of 50/20 (50 Mbps down, 20 Mbps up) is perfect for live sport streaming. There’s bandwidth to spare for the video stream (or streams) and lots of upstream speed available so your device can keep in touch with the streaming server and let it know it’s getting the video just fine. Don’t make the mistake of going for lower speeds to save money – even 25/5 is potentially an exercise in frustration depending on the actual maximum speed of your connection and whatever else is flowing through it. 50/20 will cost you a little more, but it’s worth it for smooth streaming and a much better internet experience overall.
This one’s a must. Streaming video uses a fair bit of data anyway – around 3GB per hour in HD, but more for high-bitrate content like live sport. If you pick a plan with a monthly download limit, you’re going to chew through that really quickly if you’re sitting down to stream hours-long footy games or day-long cricket and golf contests. While in the past, broadband plans with unlimited data meant you were likely to hit some nasty peak-hour congestion and buffering, changes from the NBN side have meant that most providers can now offer unlimited-data plans without compromising quality even at evening peak times.
Bundled Streaming Device
It’s not essential – there’s a lot of great streaming devices to choose from, you probably already have one and your smart TV can do the job just fine in some cases. But the best thing about bundle deals is the useful stuff that often gets thrown in, and in some cases, that can mean a quality streaming device that’ll help get you up and running from the moment your broadband gets connected.
A Reliable Provider
It’s a bit harder to quantify, but you want a provider that is going to give you reliable streaming even under the most difficult conditions – namely, the weekday evening hours when everyone’s getting home and firing up their streaming devices. By law, NBN providers now have to state a typical evening speed that you’ll see on their plans – it’s not a guarantee, but it’s a good indication. Higher is better, of course, and ideally you want that number to be as close to your actual plan speed as possible. That way you won’t be left hanging mid-way through a game with a “buffering” screen just because half the country is streaming the new Game of Thrones episode!
Best Sports Streaming Bundles
Thanks to the way the NBN has opened up the internet to dozens of new providers, there’s no shortage of choice when it comes to finding a broadband plan – and needless to say, it can be seriously confusing. We’ve taken a look at the top broadband streaming providers, and found plans that are ideally suited to streaming live sports, whether they be through Kayo, Foxtel or even your favourite code’s phone or tablet app.
Telstra Unlimited + Streaming Bundle
One of Australia’s largest and most advanced broadband networks, Telstra has been dropping some very keenly-priced bundles in recent times, and this one’s a cracker for the avid sports fan. You get unlimited data, a home phone with unlimited calls within Australia, Telstra’s new Smart Modem Gen 2 with 4G backup, and a Google Home Mini smart speaker. That clever little Google device can now control the Telstra TV 2 that comes with this bundle as well, along with two years’ subscription to Foxtel Now. You can also stream Kayo on the Telstra TV via a pre-installed app!
Aussie Broadband Fetch TV Family Bundle
One of the most respected new internet providers in the country, Aussie lives up to its name by being entirely Australian owned and Australian staffed. Their network is unique amongst independent providers – it’s fast, responsive and very well connected, ideal for streaming of all kinds. And now with Fetch TV on the Aussie menu as well, you can stream ESPN live and record multiple free-to-air channels at once. The bundle with 50/20 NBN broadband, a Netcomm modem/router and the Fetch TV Mighty is an excellent $94/month.
Dodo Supercharged Bundle + Fetch Mini
If you’d prefer to grab the tiny little Fetch Mini to handle your streaming without the hassle of managing recordings, Dodo can do that for you on its NBN50 Fetch bundle, with unlimited data, included home phone line with pay as you go calls (and optional unlimited) and no setup fees. It’s all backed by the superb Vocus network to keep things nice and buffer-free.
Southern Phone NBN Turbo
A unique provider that puts its profits back into regional communities, Southern Phone offers a keenly-priced NBN 50/20 plan with unlimited data for a very appealing $70 per month, giving you the freedom and bandwidth to stream sport as much as you like without the network slowing you down or limits cutting you off.
Vodafone Essential+ NBN
Though they’re best known for their mobile phone plans, Vodafone have gotten into the NBN business with some terrific bundles that are even cheaper if you already have a Vodafone mobile service. With unlimited data, 50/20 Mbps speed, and an included Wi-Fi hub that features seamless 4G backup in case of a broadband outage, this $69/month plan will have you streaming like a champion. You can also change plans at any time without penalty, so if you find you want even more speed later, you can have it!
iPrimus Unlimited + Entertainment Bundle
Going for the “no limits” angle is iPrimus, whose excellent network is perfect for high quality streaming. This Entertainment bundle packs the formidable Fetch Mighty box with one premium channel pack – choose the Vibe pack for live-streaming ESPN – as well as unlimited data at 50/20 Mbps, a home phone line with unlimited local and national calls, and one month free. At $110/month, it’s great value.
The Choice Is Yours
These are just some of the great bundle deal available in what is now a very competitive NBN market – and if you choose well, you’ll enjoy flawless live sports streaming with all the thrills and none of the hassles. Be sure to check out our bundle comparison to take a look at what else is on offer!