Opinion: “Sunderland needs to offer more to streaming fans!”

Sunderland sent out an email this week announcing early bird pricing for its full season international streaming passes.

Ironically, on the same day, the club offered one of the worst streaming performances in internet history.

Tuesday’s game against Bradford looked more like an arcade game from the 1980s than a live stream, leaving fans mostly guessing what was happening on the pitch.

To be fair to the club it was just a pre-season friendly and the video quality was far from the norm for international fans – and those watching from the UK midweek and those of us heading to Berlin , Tallinn “pull”. or Madrid every other weekend – usually experience on match day. However, for fans who regularly stream games, the question arises, “What exactly am I paying for?”.

The techno-hued 8-bit acid trip some of us saw this week isn’t a regular occurrence, but Sunderland’s live streaming has been far from perfect for the past few years.

Between the one-man EFL camera crew, dodgy audio and long lag times, fans run the risk of remembering the quality of the broadcast more than the quality on the field.

Pre-season training camp in Sunderland - Day 3

You call that an international stream? This is an international stream.
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

It’s an aspect of the fan experience that should go almost unnoticed as fans around the world seek to connect and interact with the club they love. International fans in particular rely on resources such as stream, as well as fan groups and social media, to connect with the club abroad.

Due to the size of the club, international Sunderland fans make up a large part of the club’s fanbase and deserve a comparable digital experience to domestic supporters on a match day.

Understandably, Sunderland’s time in League One and the heinous liquidation of wealth under the previous owner had a huge impact on the club’s overall infrastructure.

And under the new regime of Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, infrastructure has been a key focus as the club as a whole is back to the standard that fans have come to expect.

However, the club must keep in mind that the in-house streaming service offered to fans must be a priority as the club continue to push this push forward. Quality must be strived for in all areas, regardless of match streaming.

The leap into championship-level football should certainly have an impact on the functioning of the club. And SAFC fans will no doubt see that across the board as we dust ourselves off from the League One grime.

Bradford City v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly

Actually, on second thought, please pixelate it
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

International fans will have more opportunities to watch nationally televised matches at this level as Sky Sports’ international partners will broadcast matches through their affiliates, with our game already selected as such on opening day.

However, not all games will make the national scene. And not all fans will have the opportunity to watch matches themselves.

So what can the club do to ensure international fans want to buy a season streaming pass and if they do, is it money well spent?

An encouraging announcement has already been made on that front, as the early bird price ad included a statement that “multi-camera coverage will return for the 2022-23 season as well”.

A major downside to the stream in recent years has been the rot of the lone pitchside camera angle. Especially on reruns, the single camera perspective highlighted the sub-par streaming service the club has been offering.

Multiple cameras are a step in the right direction. The return of Frankie and Danny is also good for the streaming service. Fans seemed to have bonded with the broadcast couple and it’s a blessing to have them as “the club’s official voice(s)”.

As for improvements, the first thing that comes to mind is improving the SAFSEE mobile app.

The app is the platform that international fans have to use to access the live stream on mobile devices and overall it’s very poor.

It has sections for highlights, interviews, academy, and latest video uploads, and then a separate tab for live match streams.

These features are all fantastic in theory – however, they are rarely updated.

The ‘latest’ in the SAFSEE app

For example, the three most recent videos available for ‘Highlights’ in the app are Gillingham away from October, the Pizza Cup group game vs Man United academy and Accrington from 11 September.

The other categories have similarly old content; the latest video for ‘Academy’ is the season opening highlight against Fulham and the latest ‘Interview’ is the presser of the aforementioned Gillingham game.

Also, the app’s live stream feature can be a bit moody.

It’s difficult to navigate through the options without the stream constantly pausing, resulting in the app having to be restarted to be “live” again.

This is a huge missed opportunity to provide fans with a high-quality, one-stop-shop digital experience. Certainly it wouldn’t require a huge investment to update the streaming platform or ensure all club highlights, academy content and women’s content are available and up to date on the app.

As for the stream itself, it would be nice if the club took a few steps forward to improve the fan experience in the coming year.

I always thought a fan live chat bar would be a nice touch for streaming supporters. There would be an added level of community and engagement for fans who rarely, if ever, come to a game in person. Of course, if a chat bar is made collapsible like other live streaming events, it could be hidden for fans who don’t want the hassle or distraction.

Another addition would be the options for live match stats, live scoring from all leagues, live tables, etc. These add-ons are available on platforms like ESPN+, for example, and would take the SAFC stream to an elite level.

Additionally, a simple addition to the service – with broadcast rights where possible – would be on-demand replays, allowing fans to watch the game in their time zone without having to wait for the 24 hours that Sunderland was able to do so Game can set up on the site for everyone.

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One - Play Off - Final - Wembley Stadium

We all like to be there. Holds an inflatable cock and balls. But not all of us can be. A great streaming service would soften the blow a bit.
Photo by Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images

All of these suggestions aren’t a necessity, but I think the club should take a close look at what upgrades could be made to the streaming service to ensure fans are spending their hard-earned cash on quality content.

All in all I’ll be buying my season pass this week and I’m looking forward to following SAFC this season and watching as many games as possible (now from three angles).

I hope I never endure this week’s pixelated and absurd digital experience again.

And I hope Sunderland Association Football Club makes a great effort to ensure fans around the world pay for a top quality streaming service.

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