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Eye on Demand | August 18, 2017

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Sky NZ’s Fan Pass Review

Sky NZ’s Fan Pass Review

Review Overview

Quality of Video Stream
7.5
User Interface
7
Content on Offer
6.5
Device Availability
5
Value for Money
5
6.2

Great HD Streams!

Fan Pass is Sky New Zealand’s only OTT service, and in a sports-mad country like New Zealand, it should come as no surprise that Sky’s first fully stand-along SVOD service would be for their sports channels. We give it the rundown just in time for the Rugby World Cup!

Fan Pass was originally targeted at thee specific competitions; Super Rugby, NRL, and Formula 1. But there is also a generic subscription that includes all four Sky Sports channels live, which will be great for the world cup.

Before we go any further, it is worth pointing out that Sky New Zealand has nothing to do with Sky in Europe. The folks that started it just copied the British company’s name. That said, Sky NZ have been around since the late 80s and are now the largest pay TV outlet in the country.

Fan Pass, although operated by a branch of Sky NZ, is treated as a completely different service. If you are a Sky NZ subscriber, you don’t have to use Fan Pass at all, as you can use their Sky Go service (yes, they copied that name as well from the UK giant). Unfortunately for those who may just want Sky Go access, only Fan Pass is available without a traditional decoder.

Check out Fan Pass’ subscriptions page here for additional packages, but this review will concentrate on the live streams. Just for the record, some of the additional passes include plenty of on-demand replays, but the standard Sky Sports 1-4 pass concentrates mainly on live streams.

Sky Sports 1-4: unrestricted access to Sky Sports channels 1 through 4. Contract-free without any commitments.

Day Pass: NZ$14.99

Week Pass: NZ$19.99

Month Pass: NZ$55.99

At the end of the day, the pointy end of the stick is all about video quality, and in our tests these have been very good (which were incidentally done about as far away from New Zealand as possible). Check out the device tabs below, because every platform performed differently, but you should be able to expect bitrates averaging 4300kbps at its best.

As for platform support, Fan Pass can be viewed on web browsers, iOS and Android only, but they provide Chromecast and AirPlay to get that picture onto the big screen.

 

  • Content

    Sky NZ is New Zealand’s largest television sports network and the home of Rugby Union, with live coverage of Super Rugby and the ITM Cup. The network has broadcasted every All Blacks home and away matches since 1996, and that includes all of the world cups including this year’s event in England & Wales.

    Rugby League is also covered with NRL and Super League matches along with cricket, basketball, hokey, netball, golf, Formula 1, and a good deal of tennis.

    Unfortunately Fan Pass doesn’t cover all of the sports channels provided by Sky, so you won’t find ESPN or pop-up channels, only Sky Sports 1 through 4.

    Overall you get a lot of sport on all four channels, as well as sporting news from Sky New Zealand, Sky Sports News UK and Fox Sports News.

    SkySp14

    Fan Pass is geographically unblocked for global access by the following Smart DNS providers:

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  • Web Browser

    Fan Pass website

    Don’t expect anything too seriously spectacular at the Fan Pass website. Outside of being decked primarily in New Zealand’s national colours (i.e. black and white), it is a very basic affair – the term eye candy wouldn’t be used here.

    But that doesn’t really matter much when the first thing most people will be doing is heading straight for the live channels to watch whatever it is they came here for in the first place.

    As far as the actual business end goes, it works pretty well. We tested the live streams at full-screen averaging 4420kbps*, which looked good enough even for a web browser stream.

    FanPass Web 4420kbps

    The playback window allows for pausing the live stream, but sadly no other form of timeshifting other than a return to the live feed button. On the other hand, there is also a slow-motion option, which cuts audio out to play back at half speed. However the supplied frame rates here don’t encourage use of the slow-motion feature.

    If you are using a Chrome browser and have a Chromecast or Android TV (e.g. Nexus player), you’ll find a casting button as well, allowing you to use your big-screen TV to playback the channels. Check out the chromecast tab on this review for more information.

    Platform Pros:

    • Very good HD quality streams.
    • Pause and Slow Motion option.
    • Manual or Auto control of streaming bitrate.
    • Includes Chromecast support from Chrome browser.

    Platform Cons:

    • No easy channel hopping from full-screen mode.

    (Outside of New Zealand you may require a Smart DNS or VPN service to access the live streams)

    Sport BUTTON On-Demand - BUTTON HD BUTTON Live TV BUTTON

     

     

     

     

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

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    * tested bitrates published were the results averaged over multiple tests, and may be affected by bandwidth and geographic location.


  • iOS (iPhone and iPad)

    Best 2Fan Pass provide apps for both the iPad and iPhone, which can be downloaded free of charge from the New Zealand iTunes store. If you don’t have a NZ iTunes account, you can easily create one by following the guide here.

    Both apps are very basic in layout, but to be honest you don’t really need much for live television streams. At the end of the day, all that matters is how quickly you can fire up the TV channels, and how well it performs from then on.

    Video quality varies depending on device. The larger iPads offer what Fan Pass describe as a 720p HD stream. There is no way to manually set this, as the iOS app only provides dynamic streams that automatically adjusts to match the available bandwidth. Our own tests averaged around 4300kbps* which was a very pleasant feed and matched Fan Pass’ maximum offering. On the iPad screen, video quality looked excellent.

    FanPass iPad 4300kbps

    The iPhone on the other hand could only muster an SD stream, but this was more than sufficient for the smaller sized screens. Our tests averaged 1800kbps*, but of course when airplayed onto a big TV, this lower quality was noticeable.

    FanPass iPhone 1800kbps

    As far as AirPlay goes, the iPad does the best job with HD streams, and is fully multitasking. This means that it can be instigated from the playback screen, and while airplaying on the TV, the mobile device can be used for something else or the screen switched off.

    Fan Pass also allows casting to a Chromecast or Android TV (e.g. Nexus Player) for an alternative way to watch on the big screen, and at least via our iPhone and iPad tests, we saw a very good 4260kbps* stream pipe through to our reference television. For more details on chromecasting, hit the Chromecast tab above.

    All up, the iPad proved to be our favourite platform. Reliable, solid and well designed, with HD streams and full AirPlay or Chromecast support.

    Platform Pros:

    • Well laid out user interface.
    • Very nice HD streams on the iPad.
    • Excellent AirPlay support.
    • Chromecast support.
    • Can pause live TV (and jump back to live).
    • Can rewind by 30 seconds.

    Platform Cons:

    • iPhone only offers SD streams.
    • No easy way to flip through channels in fullscreen.

    (Outside of New Zealand you may require a Smart DNS or VPN service to access the live streams)

    Sport BUTTON On-Demand - BUTTON SD BUTTON HD BUTTON Live TV BUTTON Chromecast BUTTON AirPlay BUTTON

     

     

     

     

     

     

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

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    * tested bitrates published were the results averaged over multiple tests, and may be affected by bandwidth and geographic location.

     


  • Android

    The following app has been tested on a Samsung Galaxy Tab S running Lollipop 5.0.2. Due to the enormous fragmentation of the Android ecosystem, features, availability and UI may vary dramatically between devices.

    Fan Pass’ Android app is not terribly different to that of their iOS one as far as the layout goes. The same basic dual menu system exists, but with just a couple of missing features like AirPlay and for the most part HD streams.

    Fan Pass’ FAQ states that HD streams are available on “some tablets”, but although we had no problems streaming in high definition on our iPad, the Samsung Galaxy S8.4 tablet only allowed for SD streams averaging 1640kbps* (compared to the iPad’s 4300kbps HD stream).

    FanPass Android 1640kbps

    Thankfully when streaming via Chromecast, things look a bit better with Fan Pass’ usual 720p HD feed performing great on the big-screen TV. For more information on chromecasting, check the next tab in this review.

    Overall the app functioned well, but I would have liked to see a better way to channel hop when on full-screen along with more timeshifting features.

    Platform Pros:

    • Simple user interface.
    • Manual or auto control of bitrate.
    • Chromecast support.
    • Basic timeshifting (30sec back, pause and jump to live feed).

    Platform Cons:

    • No HD streams (unless chromecasting).
    • No easy way to flip channels when in fullscreen.

    (Outside of New Zealand you may require a Smart DNS or VPN service to access the live streams)

    Sport BUTTONOn-Demand - BUTTONSD BUTTONLive TV BUTTONChromecast BUTTON

     

     

     

     

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

    Ad Getflix

    * tested bitrates published were the results averaged over multiple tests, and may be affected by bandwidth and geographic location.

  • Chromecast

    This review was tested on a Chromecast using an iPad as the controlling device.

    For the most part, Chromecast utilizes the user interface from the platform controlling it, in which case this is currently either an iOS or Android app. The only difference now is that a small Chromecast button also appears if a device is within the network.

    Which means at least for this review, refer to the iOS, Android or Web tabs for an overview regarding the general user interface.

    That aside, there are two methods to implement casting, the first is a global setting, activated by pressing the Chromecast button almost always found at the top of the iPad or iPhone screen, with the second option selecting directly from the playback window.

    Chromecast

    Video quality was excellent when streaming across to our reference TV, with an average bitrate of 4260kbps* when instigated from iOS.

    FanPass Chromecast 4260kbps

    Being a Chromecast stream, you can also move away from the playback screen and use the mobile device for something else, switch off, or even remove entirely from the network. You don’t actually need the controlling device at all anymore, well, except to stop the stream itself, which is rather important for live streams such as these, as they could theoretically eat up all your data allowance if left unattended.

    Platform Pros:

    • Fantastic and easy way to stream Fan Pass content to a TV from Android or Apple without the need of AirPlay.
    • Full multitasking on the mobile device used for controlling.
    • Very good video quality.
    • Easy to use.
    • Affordable way to get iPlayer onto your main TV.

    Platform Cons:

    • No way to easily stop the show if someone removes the controlling device.
    • Although relatively easy, can still be too confusing for those not so tech savvy.
    • Not as reliable as other platforms.

    (Outside of New Zealand you may require a Smart DNS or VPN service to access the live streams)

    Sport BUTTON On-Demand - BUTTON HD BUTTON Live TV BUTTON Chromecast BUTTON

     

     

     

    Chromecast

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

    Ad Getflix

    * tested bitrates published were the results averaged over multiple tests, and may be affected by bandwidth and geographic location.

     

  • Global Access

    Life can be hard for expat New Zealanders, especially those living in Australia where they’re so close, yet so far from everything that was once called home.

    Unlike many British expats in other parts of Europe where satellite feeds from home still reaches foreign shores, New Zealanders even in Sydney will not enjoy this privilege.

    Thankfully there are ways, and none better than Smart DNS. This beats VPNs on so many levels for video streaming, allowing the highest quality feed possible, combined with the easiest and most versatile setups, and at the best price.

    The catch is that a Smart DNS must support the requested service, and often on specific devices. Fan Pass is not a widely supported service with Smart DNS companies, but there are some that include it in their line-up. Below is a list of Smart DNS companies that we know of which support Fan Plus and who we used to test their streams.

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    Smart DNS companies won’t just unblock Fan Pass, they’ll also unblock a whole pile of additional content from New Zealand when abroad, along with plenty of other services like the BBC iPlayer, Hulu and all of Netflix’s main regions.

    All of this makes Smart DNS the best choice also for cord cutters. Those wanting to cut the cord from their cable overlords often find a lot of their favourite shows are no longer available. Having access to free-to-air catch-up content from around the world also means that many American and British shows that are no longer available to the cord cutter, can be accessed easily enough from abroad.

  • Conclusion

    Overall I was very impressed with Fan Pass. Despite testing the service from Germany (via Smart DNS to unblock the region restriction), which is probably not too far from the furthest part of the world from New Zealand, we experienced their highest quality streams exactly as advertised.

    In my years testing live streaming services from around the world, I’ve come across a lot worse from services far closer than what I’m seeing here. Video played back reliably, with no buffering during my tests and their respective apps UI‘s, despite their simplicity, were well designed.

    In all fairness, I have yet to put this to test during the most trying of conditions – during an All Blacks game at the World Cup. IPTV performance issues have been known to affect even the biggest of broadcasters when confronted with a major event. Only time will tell how well this will perform when under so much pressure.

    With such great video quality, why the relatively low score? For a start, platform support could be increased. We would like to see Xbox One and PS4 apps, as well as the new Apple TV, Android TV and support for other Smart televisions. We’d also really like to see HD on all devices along with additional sports channels.

    All that said, I look forward to seeing a complete OTT solution for Sky New Zealand in the future, i.e. one that doesn’t just stream their sports channels.

    Until then, Fan Pass should mean no Kiwi, wherever they are in the world, need miss major New Zealand sporting events – even if they require a Smart DNS provider to dodge the usual geoblocks.

    Pros:

    • Excellent streaming quality on devices that support HD.
    • Easy to use UI.
    • Basic timeshifting possible on some devices.
    • Excellent AirPlay and Chromecast support.
    • No limit on the number of playable platforms or devices.

    Cons:

    • A bit expensive.
    • Only Sky’s 4 channels and none of the extra ones like ESPN or pop-up.
    • Limited platform support.
    • No HD on iPhone or most Android devices.
    • Only one concurrent stream.

    Log:

    18.09.2015: Review Published. Score 6.2: Great HD Streams!

    12.02.2016: Updated with monthly pass.

    Fan Pass is geographically unblocked for global access by the following Smart DNS providers:

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