I have a confession to make: I have never watched so little sports on television. As a college student who wants to work in sports media, this shouldn’t be the case. That said, I’m consuming more sports than ever through apps on my phone and tablets. With an iPhone, a 7” Lenovo Android tablet, and an OG Surface RT, I have three mobile options for watching my sporting events. With apps from nearly every sport and provider, it’s nearly impossible for me to miss a game while on the go. Sadly, not all of these programs are created equal, with apps differing between operating systems, both in quality and quantity.
Here’s a comprehensive rundown:
Fun fact: an official ESPN-branded ESPN app debuted on Windows 8 long before the old ScoreCenter app got a new coat of paint and a new name. Unfortunately, while iOS, Android, and Windows Phone have all gotten app updates to match the new ESPN.com, the Windows 8 app has been left out in the cold. This is likely due to the Windows app’s use as an ESPN.com alternative rather than a ScoreCenter replacement. It still does its job, but it lacks the finesse of the update as it appears on other devices.
This is a recurring theme, but it took a while for WatchESPN to come to Windows 8. Its tile-based interface looks different when compared to iOS and Android, but it works just the same. Android also works the same, and that’s something ESPN should be proud of.
Fox Sports Go:
This app looks the same on all of my devices, but it doesn’t run the same. It works best on iOS, but has some video and audio quality issues on Android and Windows. Also, when I first launched the Windows App, it crashed on me, which is another strike against the app on my Surface. Not to mention that when I did get the app to work, the video was grainier than old antenna TV and the audio wasn’t much better than that. On Android, these issues were more minor and didn’t take much away from the overall app experience, but they were noticeable in comparison to my iPhone.
I’m not a fan of this app in general because I consider it a weaker alternative to ESPN. On iOS and Android, the app is like the old ScoreCenter, but it includes a national CBS Radio feed. I’m not a fan of the annoying ad at the bottom of the screen. It isn’t even for a CBS property of partner, which makes the app sink to the level of a freemium game. But at least these apps are okay. The Windows 8 app… well, it’s a joke. There’s no radio feed, just scores and a couple of article links. There’s a giant CBS Sports logo in the upper right-hand corner, but I’d be ashamed to have any sort of branding on the app, let alone one that takes up so much space. Did I mention that it isn’t even a true watch app because I can’t stream on there? That’s another major dealbreaker.
NBC Sports Live Extra:
As a big fan of The Dan Patrick Show, I’ve used this app plenty on all of my devices. I also watched the 2014 Winter Olympics on the app, mainly curling during my 8:30 Psychology class. It looks and feels the same on all three devices, but no longer functions properly on my Surface. Every time I tap to watch a show, the app crashes. It’s a sad fate for what was a great app and the first good sports streaming app available on Windows 8.
Watch TBS/Watch TNT:
For playoff baseball and a chunk of NBA games, these apps are a necessity. So long as you log in with your provider information, the streaming is free, and that’s clutch during playoff time. These apps are even available on Windows 8 and they work well on all three devices. There is even a selection of on-demand movies on both apps for when you (gasp!) aren’t streaming games.
This isn’t a streaming app, per se, but it deserves inclusion on this list. Nearly every major league apart from the NFL has teamed up to create this digital-only venture with Time Inc. The premise is highlights for the younger generation with videos that wrap up in about two minutes (hence the 120 in 120 Sports). For an app that prides itself on being available on every device, 120 is missing on my Surface RT, though I will watch videos from time to time on my other electronics. There is no game streaming, but plenty of highlights and analysis available, trimmed into neat little packages. If you’ve never checked out 120, I recommend at least taking a look at the free app for an alternative highlight option.
It’s slightly unfair to judge these apps when the sport is out of season, but there is still plenty available in the app for every football fan. The NFL Mobile app allows me to watch the NFL Network for free on my Android tablet by logging in through my cable provider, but not my phone or tablet. Because Verizon owns streaming rights for phones, the cost to watch it on the smallest of my screens is $4.99 per month. Instead of spending and squinting, I can just wait until I have Wi-Fi or turn my phone into a hot spot. On Windows 8, there is a separate app for streaming that is creatively named NFL on Windows 8. This app gives me plenty of streaming options should my cable provider use them, but it comes across as superfluous considering it is grouped with NFL Mobile on my other devices.
Speaking of apps that come across as unnecessary, this app is just that. It seems like the only show I can watch specifically on this app is The Rich Eisen Show and as much as I enjoy him as a host, he’s not a massive draw. This app looks and runs the same on all three of my devices and does not require a cable login. Instead, it uses an ad-based setup revolving around shorter videos that pertain to interests you set up. For me, this was a lot of Cleveland Browns media.
Watch NFL Network:
This app is not available on my iPhone, likely due to the aforementioned streaming deal between the Shield and Verizon. On my tablets, I can watch NFL Network and NFL Red Zone using this app. Once again, it comes across as unnecessary because I can already do these actions on other applications. I think I’m going to watch on NFL Mobile because the video failed to load properly on this app on both Android and Windows. To prevent confusion, I think this app should be discontinued immediately. It doesn’t make sense when there’s another app that can do the same actions, and then some.
NBA Game Time:
Unlike the NFL, which has partnered with Microsoft and Surface, the NBA has disregarded Windows 8 with their sport’s signature app. Unless you subscribe to NBA League Pass, you’re not missing much. Live streaming and classic games are offered, but these are off limits unless you’re a League Pass subscriber. Other than that, it’s typical for this type of app with video, scores, and news. Unlike this year’s playoffs, this app is pretty boring.
An NHL Gamecenter Live account is required to watch games, but aside from that, the app is a smooth and typical experience, except for Windows, where it is MIA. There’s no NHL team in Cleveland, so I use this app the least compared to the other sports. If there’s a big time feature I missed or a major issue I have overlooked, let me know in the comments section.
MLB At Bat:
This is my favorite of the sport-specific apps because of the MLB.TV Free Game of the Day, which allows me to watch a preselected out of market contest on a daily basis (Note: In-market video streaming is not available). If you subscribe to MLB.TV or Gameday Audio, you can also listen to all of those on the app. Select classic games are also available to watch on demand through the app. Windows 8 does not have this app, but replaces it with a specific MLB.TV tile. Like many other Windows apps, numerous features are missing. With MLB.TV, it is easier to list the few available features, which are a list of games and the ability to watch them. There is no audio-only option, no classic games, and no non-MLB.TV features of the At Bat app. This isn’t promising for streaming apps on Windows as MLB Advanced Media develops many of these. If the company isn’t putting much effort into their first-party app, what makes you think they would put any effort into developing for another company? Exactly.
If you’re looking to stream or follow your favorite sports and networks, you can easily do so, just as long as you’re willing to pay. Whether it be a cable subscription or a separate streaming plan, practically every sport and network offers video and/or audio streaming options for us on-the-go techies with phones and/or tablets. That said, Windows hasn’t been invited to all of the parties, which is something to consider before spending money on a new device. Maybe this will improve with Windows 10, but I wouldn’t count on it. Obviously, iOS has the highest availability and quality apps, but Android isn’t a half-bad replacement, especially when considering price and needs. Overall, the sheer amount of apps available is remarkable and should be able to satisfy even the craziest sports fan’s streaming appetite.
Alex Kaufman is a Spanish and communication double major at Denison University. He loves to consume and cover sports and sports media, hosts a sports talk show on 91.1 WDUB, and can be found at his own website, neuroticsportsfan.com.