The New ESPN 360 Sucks
I thoroughly enjoyed the first 5 or 6 days of the World Cup. I watched a good bit of it on my computer while I worked using ESPN 360. This is the video solution that ESPN offers through a select group of broadband ISPs. So, your ISP is basically picking up the tab for the increased features and bandwidth concerns for the live streaming and hosted, taped content.
ESPN 360 was delivered by its own custom Windows app, which certainly had its negative points, but for the most part worked very well. The video streamed quickly, was clear and the app had little to no issues with crashing or memory/resource hogging.
That all changed with ESPN’s release of their new 360. It is now a browser-based app taking advantage of Flash 8.0’s new video capabilities and things have gone downhill. One of the most noticeable things is that the quality of the video is much lower. This is true of both live and recorded content. There are often stutters and hangups with both kinds of content as well.
There are further issues with the interface. There is no way to “pin” the application window to “always be on top” of your desktop. So, if you watch it while working and want it to float above other windows while you work away, it’s impossible without 3rd-party solutions. This was a feature of the previous player application with a little “pushpin” icon.
The interface also features some sort of auto-scroll thing that moves the content from left-to-right based on where your cursor is within the window. This occurs to display extra content such as headlines and other “interactive” content. I appreciate ESPN’s desire to push more of their programming and, thereby, advertising, but this auto-scroll only gets in the way.
The most egregious addition to ESPN 360 has been the addition of advertising at the beginning of every clip. As a service for which my ISP pays ESPN, I don’t think it reasonable that ESPN subject me to advertising while I am using a paid service. They’ve added banner ads to the screen, as well. This is less objectionable than having to sit through the same commercial 5 times during a 20 minute show because the video has to be restarted 5 times forcing you to watch the commercial again each time.
I used the “Feedback” feature in the player to voice these concerns to ESPN, but since the form didn’t ask for an email address, I can’t expect that they will get back to me in any way. I hope that this post will serve as a message to the developers and executives at ESPN that in striving to do the cool, new thing, they have ruined the user experience. Making these changes at a time when so many users are using ESPN 360 to watch the World Cup seems like an ill-advised move.