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Eye on Demand | September 26, 2017

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NRL via Livestream Review

NRL via Livestream Review

Review Overview

Quality of Video Stream
6
User Interface
6
Device Availability
4
Value for Money
8
6

Best on iOS

If you’re craving to catch the 2015 NRL season in its entirety, Lifestream is offering every single game for free. So how well does it perform and is it worth signing up for the Premium service? Check out our review for all the answers!

The NRL, Australasia’s premier club rugby league competition, is one of the biggest sporting tournaments in Australia and New Zealand, reaching in 2010 the highest total cumulative sports audience on Australian television.

Whilst traditional broadcasts may be viewed on the Nine Network and Fox Sports in Australia, global access is primarily streamed online via Livestream.

Livestream may seem at first an odd choice for watching major sporting events such as the NRL, after-all the service is notable as a means for anyone to broadcast their own personal streams. But there are still a few major events or news channels that feed through the service, with Australia’s NRL being one of the most important tournaments.

As far as the NRL goes, Livestream will broadcast every match from the tournament, including the pre-match banter and half-time entertainment, and depending on the platform you choose, whether you see ads or not in the free service.

 

Teams

Livestream provide two ways to watch the NRL, with the first option being free. For €60 however, they’ll jump you onto their Premium bandwagon, which offers the three additional features.

  • No advertising on the website version.
  • Mobile device access.
  • DVR features.

To be honest, the removal of advertising does appear somewhat attractive, but it seems it is only valid at this stage for the website version, as iOS and Android streams without commercials. The free webpage service provides ads every 10 minutes and although during our tests this really just constituted a single promotion for their premium service, it can come right in the middle of the all-important action. Of course, there is nothing to say that Livestream won’t increase the duration of their commercial breaks later in the season.

I will also point out that we had no issues accessing the live streams via iOS or Android over Wi-Fi, and iOS over 4G(LTE) without subscribing to the NRL Viewer + Package. Exactly what Livestream means by adding mobile device access in the premium subscription remains a mystery to us.

Oddly enough, Livestream seem to only describe the premium NRL Viewer+ Package as valid for the 2014 season, so I would be a bit careful right now before signing up in 2015.

Video quality for the most part is good, and this depends enormously on which platform you are using. As is so often the case, the web stream is the least stable and lowest quality, but things looked a lot better via iOS and Android, even when not taking into account the smaller screens.

Unfortunately, platform support is not one of Livestream’s strongest selling points. With little more than web, iOS and Android, there isn’t a lot of options to get the match over onto the main living-room TV, although Apple owners also have an excellent AirPlay option.

Livestream technically support Roku, but for some unknown reason, the NRL matches are not streamed live on it.

 


  • Livestream NRL Website

    Livestream’s web service is simple enough to navigate as to not stress too many viewers. After-all, when you want to watch sport, the last thing you need is a long journey to access the match. It’s possible to have Livestream notify you via email as soon as an NRL match is about to begin, and the email will provide a direct link to the match. This can be set up immediately upon signing up, or at any stage later.

    Unfortunately, that is about it for our fondness of Livestream via the web portal.

    For a start, the game is peppered with ads every ten minutes on the free service. It is possible that this can be overcome by subscribing to the €60 premier version (although they only advertise this for the 2014 season), but even when commercials aren’t playing, Livestream still place a reminder ad on the screen every few moments encouraging the NRL Viewer + Package.

    Video quality was also visually the worst of all tested platforms, with the usual juddering that browser playback can have for many users, and an average tested bitrate of 2550kbps*. To be honest, at that bitrate we should have seen much higher quality streams, as the levels of pixelation were higher than what the so-called 720p HD stream should have provided. In our mind, this was an SD stream at the very best. That said, if you sat far enough away from the screen, it isn’t too bad and certainly watchable. (It’s also worth noting that the spikes you see on the graph below were the commercial breaks)

    NRL Livestream Web 2850kbps

    The video window offers a basic quality level adjuster, with streams possible in either what Livestream define as 720p HD, 480p SD or a much lower and pointless stream that is honestly not worth mentioning. As we haven’t tested the €60 Premium service, we can’t report on the DVR features.

    Platform Pros:

    • Email links direct to live stream.
    • Manual video quality adjusting.

    Platform Cons:

    • Pixelation and juddering was clearly noticeable, even at the highest setting.
    • Commercials every 10 minutes on the free version.
    • Ads popping up on the screen promoting the premium version.

    (Accessing the NRL via livestream in blackout countries may require a good Smart DNS or VPN service, see the Blackout tab for more details)

    Sport BUTTON Catch-up BUTTON SD BUTTON Live TV BUTTON Alerts BUTTON

     

     

     

     

    This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”19173″]

     

    * Bitrate tests were based on multiple averages and are subject to both the geographical location and ISP bandwidth at the time.

  • Best 2Without doubt, the iOS version wins the best platform award, as it has a few rather attractive incentives over the other tested platforms. Probably the most interesting one worth pointing out, was that I never saw any commercials on the free version. The entire matched played out, interruption-free! Whether this is a short-term situation is unknown yet, but it certainly is worth considering before dishing out any further funds.

    Secondly, the app is AirPlay supported, meaning it is really easy to throw the broadcast onto your big-screen TV, as long as you have an Apple TV on the same network. Unfortunately there was no direct AirPlay button on the playback screen itself, but using the global iOS AirPlay button will do the trick. You can even switch off the iPad or iPhone while airplaying and it will continue streaming on the television.

    Thirdly, video quality looks better than what we saw via the web browser. Not that its tested average bitrate was very different at 2520kbps, but it did seem to have less pixelation and visual artifacts. Overall, the quality is very good on the smaller screens, and still acceptable when airplayed to a larger one.

    NRL Livestream iOS 2520kbps

    What we should point out, is that we still managed to access the live stream via 4G (LTE) despite testing through the free service. We have no idea why this is the case, but the video came through with more pixelation, but still without many issues.

    Platform Pros:

    • Quick access to live streams.
    • No commercials on free service.
    • Seems to work over 4G(LTE) on free service.
    • Good video quality.
    • Full AirPlay support with multitasking.
    • Audio continues even when you use other apps.
    • iPhone has same quality stream as iPad.

    Platform Cons:

    • No direct AirPlay button on playback window.
    • No Chromecast support.
    • For some odd reason, I couldn’t access the archived content.

    (Accessing the NRL via livestream in blackout countries may require a good VPN service, see the Blackout tab for more details)

    Sport BUTTON Catch-up BUTTON SD BUTTON Live TV BUTTON AirPlay BUTTON

     

     

     

     

    This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”18153″]

    * Bitrate tests were based on multiple averages and are subject to both the geographical location and ISP bandwidth at the time.

     

  • The following app has been tested on a Samsung Galaxy S 8.4 tablet running KitKat 4.4. Due to the enormous fragmentation of the Android ecosystem, features, availability and UI may vary dramatically between devices.

    Whilst I was rather impressed with the iOS app for Livestream, especially via an iPad, the Android version leaves me with a much more bitter taste.

    It certainly doesn’t start off well in my book by not even bothering to optimize the app for tablets, especially when we take into account how much more useful the larger tablet screen is when watching sporting events. So this means we have a vertical user interface forced upon the viewer during navigation, although thankfully we can switch to landscape mode once the stream begins.

    Secondly Livestream do not provide Chromecast support, which means there is no easy way to send this stream to the big-screen TV.

    Outside of that, the app works reasonably well, especially on smaller phones where users won’t be so bothered by the vertical UI.

    On a seriously positive side, like the iOS app, the NRL live streams are broadcasted commercial-free. None of the ads that peppered the web portal were present here, at least during the time of our review. Whether this continues throughout the season is at this stage unknown, but it certainly gives this platform an edge over a laptop or computer.

    Navigating to the live stream is quick and easy, and the video will play back at an average bitrate we tested at 2330kbps*, which pretty much compares with the other platforms. Video quality itself resembles what we saw via iOS, and looks better than the webpage version.NRL Livestream Android 2330kbps

    All that said, if I had one wish for this platform, it would be for Chromecast support. It really seems a shame that Livestream isn’t offering this great, cheap way to watch their content on a proper television, especially since they don’t provide Roku support for the NRL streams.

    Platform Pros:

    • Quick access to live streams.
    • No commercials on free service.
    • Good video quality.

    Platform Cons:

    • No Chromecast support.
    • Not optimized for tablets.

    (Accessing the NRL via livestream in blackout countries may require a good VPN service, see the Blackout tab for more details)

    Sport BUTTON Catch-up BUTTON SD BUTTON Live TV BUTTON

     

     

     

     

    If you represent a Smart DNS company that supports NRL via Livestream on this platform, contact us now to have your service promoted here!

    * Bitrate tests were based on multiple averages and are subject to both the geographical location and ISP bandwidth at the time.

  • the NRL livestream is available free of charge in a variety of countries, and can be viewed without the need of a VPN or Smart DNS service. However, if you hit the website or try to run a live stream from your mobile device, and notice a message saying that you do not have authorization to access the event, it then means you are in a blackout country.

    There are two ways to get around this:

    Smart DNS:

    Smart DNS is one of the coolest things any television viewer can sign up to. Basically, it’s a service run by a company that redirects DNS requests to unblock various regional restrictions. This means a wide variety of channels and events that are otherwise not available in your country, can be all of a sudden accessible. It’s very important to point out that Smart DNS unlocks country or regional restrictions, but it does not in any way circumvent a pay-wall, so if a subscription is required for a service, that still needs to be paid to the original provider.

    Smart DNS has many advantages over the more traditional VPN service:

    • Generally speaking, it is cheaper than VPN.
    • It is usually easier to configure.
    • It can be configured on devices such as set-top-boxes, Smart TVs, consoles etc.
    • It is generally a lot faster than VPN (important for video), since the video traffic is not re-routed.
    • Multiple countries can be unblocked at the same time.
    • Normal traffic carries on unhindered.

    Also, unlike many so-called “free” unblocking services, a good Smart DNS service is secure and doesn’t open up your network or computer to malicious attacks.

    At the moment, we only know of OverPlay, Unblock-us & Getflix that provide this service for Livestream. And of course, they also open up a pile of other great content from around the world such as the BBC iPlayer, all Netflix regions, Hulu Plus etc.

    Unblock-us and Getflix offer a free week’s trial to see if you like their service, so check them out by clicking below – what have you got to lose?

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”19173″]

     

    VPN:

    Alternatively, a good VPN service will also do the trick. VPNs redirect all traffic through a “virtual” private tunnel that emerges in the country selected. The advantages of a VPN over Smart DNS are as follows:

    • More services are supported.
    • NRL’s Livestream feeds via iOS and Android are supported.

    This means a VPN service would be the best way to access NRL’s Livestream feed via iOS and Android when trying to access from a blackout country. The catch is, unlike Smart DNS, the entire stream is tunneled through the VPN, which means it is always best to use a VPN server in the closest country that is unblocked.

    In the case for Australians, a VPN to New Zealand would probably be best. For British viewers, a VPN connection to a German server would provide the best quality streams.

    We recommend either IPVanish or OverPlay VPN. The advantages of IPVanish are excellent software for Android (with assisted installation software for iOS) making it very easy to set up, whilst OverPlay also includes an amazing Smart DNS service of their own as part of the VPN package (although, OverPlay’s Smart DNS unblocks a huge range of services, it doesn’t yet support Livestream, so the VPN side is still needed to unblock the NRL).

    IPVanish VPN DNS

     

     

     

  • Livestream provides an excellent way to watch the NRL on either mobile devices, a laptop or computer, or even a proper TV via AirPlay if the viewer has an Apple TV and iOS device.

    Not only are all NRL matches beamed live, but every match is available afterwards as a archived stream, so you can always catch a match at your own convenience if watching live is not possible.

    To be honest, although we love to support premium versions of a service which offer great value, in this particular case we can’t see any real reason to subscribe to the €60 Viewer+ Package. With iOS and Android apps being commercial-free from what we can see, and the ability to stream over 4G(LTE) anyway, unless this changes, the €60 upgrade seems unavailing.

    For absolute best results, set the NRL up for Livestream reminders, and watch via AirPlay from an iPad or iPhone on your big-screen TV. If you live in Australia and want to watch without the blackout’s, grab yourself a VPN sub from OverPlay or IPVanish and tunnel into New Zealand.

    Pros:

    • Free (for the most part).
    • Ad-free on iOS and Android.
    • Excellent AirPlay support.

    Cons:

    • Video quality could be better, especially via the web portal.
    • No Chromecast support.
    • No Roku support (despite Livestream being on Roku).
    • Poor platform support.
    • Ads every 10minutes via the web version.

     

    Sport BUTTON Catch-up BUTTON SD BUTTON Live TV BUTTON AirPlay BUTTON Alerts BUTTON

     

     

     

     

    Log:

    06.03.2015: Review published. Score 6 – Best on iOS.

     

    * Bitrate tests were based on multiple averages and are subject to both the geographical location and ISP bandwidth at the time.

     

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Comments

  1. Chris Wood

    A quick update as at 13 July 2015..

    It’s still the same as in the original review: you can either pay for ad-free access via the web, or you can watch ad-free for free via the mobile apps. Very odd.

    However, there’s been one really good change recently. The Livestream app on iOS now continues to stream for a short period after it’s no longer the foreground app. This means you can kill your VPN connection once playback has started and then switch back to the Livestream app. Playback stalls for a moment but then resumes, all without the bandwidth constraints of a VPN.

    *Almost* as good as a DNS solution.

    • Pretty good tip there Chris! Thanks, also for the general update.

  2. Chris Wood

    Another quick update as at 15 February 2016.

    Streaming seems to work great on the Apple TV 4 with the Livestream app and Getflix as my DNS server. Quality of the picture seems great.

    • Thanks for the update Chris. I think it’s time I done another quality test here.

  3. Kim Jong Un

    as of April 2016, I can’t seem to view NRL matches on livestream.com due to region blocking affecting South Korea.

    any updates / tips?

    • Jo Chambers

      Hi Kim, if Livestream have just begun blocking the NRL feeds in your region, the only way around it that I can think of is either a VPN or Smart DNS. I’d recommend Smart DNS, and the one I use is Getflix.

      I think the are still unblocking, but as they have a two week free trial, it shouldn’t hurt to try them out. If it is still blocked, contact their support immediately.