For weeks, the Dutch have been complaining about poor image quality and hitches in Viaplay’s live Formula 1 report.
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Of course, the complainants point the finger at Viaplay. That is understandable. In the previous eight years, Formula 1 was live on Ziggo Sport and Ziggo Sport Totaal. during this period there were hardly any problems with disturbances. Since Viaplay Group – formerly Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT) – stole the broadcasting rights from VodafoneZiggo (Ziggo Sport) and started broadcasting Formula 1 via its own streaming service Viaplay, current complaints have cropped up. Complaints are made about poor image quality, picture stuttering and even total inaccessibility of Viaplay during qualifying and races. In addition, some of the Formula 1 viewers cannot get used to the commentary by Nelson Valkenburg and Melroy Heemskerk and they think back with nostalgia to the period when Olav Mol provided the commentary at Formula 1.
Why are there such major problems now, while the Formula 1 report at Ziggo Sport previously went almost without any problems? The answer to this question must be sought in the way in which the live report is delivered to viewers’ homes. During the period that Formula 1 was broadcast on Ziggo Sport, this happened in a linear manner, just like with other TV channels such as NPO 1, RTL 4 and SBS6. Viaplay, on the other hand, uses live streaming. This means that every viewer makes a connection via the internet with one of Viaplay’s servers. Due to the success of Max Verstappen, Formula 1 in the Netherlands is more popular than ever. In the previous season, the viewership of some Formula 1 races even rose above two million viewers. Such an increase was not a problem with the broadcast standards used at the time. With live streaming, it turns out that this is different.
The two largest network owners VodafoneZiggo (Ziggo) and KPN were already afraid of problems before the market launch. They urged Viaplay Group to introduce a linear channel to relieve the network. Ultimately, it was agreed that providers that concluded a cooperation agreement with Viaplay Group may temporarily supply the qualifying and racing of Formula 1 Grand Prixes to their own customers via the linear channel Viaplay Xtra if these customers purchase a Viaplay subscription through the relevant provider. Because Viaplay Xtra is delivered via the same broadcast standard as Ziggo Sport, there is no interference if viewed in this way. Viaplay Xtra is available at Ziggo, KPN, T-Mobile, Delta and Caiway. However, Viaplay Xtra is a temporary channel that will remain available at least until the last Formula 1 weekend before the summer break.
What happens next is officially unclear. However, there is a good chance that Viaplay Xtra will remain available at least until the end of the current Formula 1 season. Roberta Alenius – head of corporate communication at Viaplay Group – informs Totaal TV that the way is open for an extension. Spokespersons Nina Moers (VodafoneZiggo) and Ellen van Heerwaarden (KPN) say that the continuation of Viaplay Xtra after the Formula 1 summer break is the subject of the evaluation that will take place with Viaplay. Given the current problems with live streaming at Viaplay, it is actually inconceivable that it will be decided to stop Viaplay Xtra on August 1.
The problems with Viaplay therefore only occur with Dutch people who watch Formula 1 via live streaming via an app on television, media player, tablet, smartphone or website. These are mainly Formula 1 enthusiasts who have bought an annual subscription for 99 euros to watch their favorite sport online. In fact, every Formula 1 weekend so far there have been complaints about the image quality. Viaplay executives have spoken out about the disruptions in an arrogant-sounding way in recent weeks. The problems would be caused by the Internet providers and by the subscriber himself, who would not have their own affairs in order. Whether or not this is true, it’s inconvenient for a new streaming service to talk about outages in such a way. Certainly in the Netherlands such an arrogant attitude is experienced as extremely negative. This is partly because Viaplay is currently the most expensive streaming service after Netflix.
The question is, of course, whether there is a grain of truth in Viaplay’s opinion. Actually, you can only answer that question with ‘yes’. This is a technical story, the exact details of which we will leave out in order to keep this article understandable for everyone. In short, this means that the capacity of the internet in a certain area is shared with the homes connected to the relevant network. If more connections to the internet are established simultaneously within this area, this will affect the quality and speed of the internet connection. If the number of stream starts from Viaplay peaks at the start of qualifying and race, there is a chance that the delivered internet speed will fall below a certain level and that the live streaming of Formula 1 will start, but that the image quality will be lower due to the technology used. . If you have been looking for some time – for example at the preview – this can lead to image stutters. This can also occur with the latest fiber optic networks, although the chance is smaller than with cable and copper networks. It does not matter whether a subscription with a gigabit speed or a lower speed is used.
Like many other streaming services, Viaplay uses a technique in which the internet connection is tested for quality and speed before the start of the video stream. On the basis of this, it is automatically selected in which image resolution the stream is offered in order to be able to deliver it to the subscriber without stuttering (buffering). With a stream start at a time when the internet network is used intensively – for example at the start and qualifying of Formula 1 – it can certainly happen that Formula 1 is not delivered in Full HD 1080p promised by Viaplay, but in a lower image resolution (worse image). is becoming. This is not only the case with Viaplay, by the way. Also with the F1 TV Pro much less used in the Netherlands for Formula 1, users complain more than before about poorer image quality, hitches and loss of connections.
Hardly any complaints
VodafoneZiggo and KPN say in a response to Totaal TV that they receive few or no complaints from their own customers about interference with Viaplay. Both network owners state that they monitor data usage closely at peak times. “During the Formula 1 races this season, our Ziggo services (live TV, Viaplay Xtra channel 200 and Ziggo GO) functioned stably. Sufficient capacity will be made available on the network during the races,” said VodafoneZiggo spokeswoman Nina Moers. Ellen van Heerwaarden says the following on behalf of KPN: “We do hear these noises about hitches on forums, but we hardly get any questions about it from our customers. When customers look outside the linear channel, they are dependent on the reception and the available bandwidth. Of course we monitor extra at peak times, but the streaming quality is always good via 5G or fiber optics.”
Linear is preferred
The conclusion after the analysis of the problems at Viaplay is that many watched sports can preferably be broadcast live on a linear channel. Formula 1 and football are currently such sports in the Netherlands. Viaplay mainly wants to market itself as a streaming service. The chance of a permanent linear channel with providers is therefore small. The Swedish company will have to sit down with Dutch internet providers to set up a well-functioning system to properly stream live streaming of frequently viewed sports. However, this is easier said than done. Until this process has been successfully completed, it is recommended that Viaplay Xtra be supplied to providers as a linear Formula 1 channel. And such a channel is not necessary for darts, Bundesliga, Premier League and other sports available live on Viaplay. Sufficient capacity is available for this to manage the number of live viewers.
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