Screaming at the Streaming


BILLY'S CONTRACT



I was pleased when it was announced that Pools would not charge season ticket holders for the privilege of watching streamed matches from Victoria Park. This was the very least the club could do to reward season ticket holders who, having already paid their money up front, would lose out by not being able to attend matches owing to Covid.

I am not privy to the economics and the costs involved in providing a streaming service and I fully appreciate that the provider as well as the club would like to make a profit of sorts but I think that the price of £10.99 for pay to view matches live from the Vic is a tad excessive for those fans who do not have season tickets.


Sky and BT are currently charging 5p less than £15 per streamed match which has prompted outrage from many Premiership supporters particularly those who have already paid for a season ticket. By all accounts viewing figures are well down on projected forecasts (and long may this continue) and there is now talk of this fee being reduced to £10 per match. The Geordies' favourite Mike Ashley has suggested that a rate of £4.95 per match until Christmas to watch Premiership games would seem fair.

Here is a breakdown of my own experiences of watching Pools'  screening or otherwise since Covid raised its ugly head.

v Aldershot (home)
Got comfy in the front room, bag of salted peanuts on one arm of the chair and a bottle of Belgian beer on the other. Match kicks off. Picture blurred and freezes every few seconds then jumps about. I thought that it would settle down after a few minutes but if anything it got worse. By the end of the match I had blurred vision as well as a headache which had nothing to do with the Belgian Beer.

v Chesterfield (away)
As this was an away game we had to pay up front for this. The match began but with no picture. We had to revert to radio commentary whilst the son, who is a whizz kid with computers and technology, tried other sources to get the picture to appear on the television. He eventually succeeded and we were able to watch the match starting with the last three minutes of the first half. Based on the radio Tees Cleveland Valley radio commentary the screening people probably did one and all a big favour by not showing a picture as the first 45 minutes were as dull as ditchwater. Chesterfield refunded our money.
"What do you think of it so far? - Rubbish!"

v Maidenhead (away)
This was first class. Quality picture and the two commentators were excellent and very entertaining. What they didn't know about Pools wasn't worth knowing . They had obviously done their research on Pools to such an extent that it would have put John Motson to shame. Example: Dear reader, please allow for some poetic licence for the following... 'A great cross comes in from David Ferguson who once played for Hartlepool's arch-rivals Darlington, and  last season with York City claimed five goals and a dozen assists but as yet has not scored for his new club'. It was the the way that they included the word "arch" in front of the word "rivals" that got to me which suggested to everyone watching that there was some serious history between the two clubs.

Their knowledge of HUFC was only eclipsed by their familiarity with the town itself in references to The Old Town, The Marina as well as the Rat Race pub, which all got a mention. The best was yet to come when they informed viewers about the exceptional direct rail link which Grand Central operated between Kings Cross and Hartlepool. They even went so far as to inform the viewer of how many trains a day ran between Hartlepool and that small fishing village on the Thames. I know it may sound a bit churlish, but my only criticism of the commentary team was when they failed to provide departure and arrival times of this inter-city service and it would have also been beneficial to many if they had furnished the viewer with details of Grand Central's ticket pricing as well as any off-peak fare offers that may be available. Disappointing.

The streaming was going swimmingly until a Pools defender made a Keith Nobbs style clearance and whilst not quite going over the roof of the stand, the ball reached its top tier and the camera shook for a moment or two and one of the commentators said 'Oh, Jackie, our little cameraman has been hit by the ball' and with that the screen went blank and that was the last we saw or heard from Maidenhead, and possibly little Jackie. Was almost like JFK all over again.

v Bromley (home) 
See Aldershot (above) except Tesco own-brand cheese-and-red-onion crisps and German bier.

v Barnet (away - postponed) 
Paid for this but Covid paid for them. Barnet have an excellent website and I later discovered that I can view the rescheduled match against our original streaming fee. So no requirement for a refund.

v Ilkeston Town (away) 
BBC Red button jobbie. Technically not a streaming service; however, could not fault the picture quality nor the commentators; not sure who they were but more down to earth than their Match of the Day counterparts. God bless them, even when Ilkeston went four goals down they still thought that the home side were still in with some sort of a shout of pulling off a giant killing act against the mighty Hartlepool United.

The other good thing about this match was that, because there was no involvement of a Premiership side, there would be no sign of Gary Lineker within 100 miles of this fixture. The ex-Leicester City forward would not recognise any football team outside of the Premiership if it fell on top of him. The main benefit was that the viewer did not have to listen to him pontificating to one and all about everything and nothing. Coming from a well known family of renowned crisp eaters I have to say that Seabrooks are several country miles better than the brand which Lineker promotes and that is not just fresh air.

On the plus side, apart from the result, Pools will pocket a few bob from the Beeb in screening fees. 

v Altrincham (home) 
Prior to this game Pools finally acknowledged that there had been teething problems with the quality of the streaming of the previous two matches at the Vic and to that end the providers of this service, Insight14, would be at the ground before, during and after the match to iron out any gremlins or problems relating to picture or sound quality of the broadcast. It put a vision in my mind of one of their engineers walking around all parts of the stadium with an antenna in one hand held high above his head while a technician gave him instructions to move left or right, or to lower or raise his hand to improve the picture. Another image is that of the producer getting on to the Royal Navy Musuem and telling Tom the cabin boy that the Trincomalee's position in the Marina is interfering with the signal and asking for it be moved half a nautical mile to starboard. 

When the match kicked off there was a notable improvement in the picture quality. In truth, it was almost 100 percent better than what had been 'dished' out to us in the previous two home games at the Vic but it was still well below par. My mate said it is like watching a broadcast from Soviet television, which just about summed it up. Rumour had it that several minutes prior to kick off Insight 14 had actually achieved a picture perfect scenario which was rated as good as Blueray. Then the ref told Insight 14 to remove the engineer and the antenna from the top of the Town End crossbar. 

v Torquay (home) 
BT Stream. Disappointed to learn that Pools would be unable to stream this match as it would infringe on BT's broadcasting rights. All I can say is thank goodness for BT's broadcasting rights which meant I did not have to watch the match as listening to it on Radio Teesside/Cleveland Valley was bad enough. On the plus side, BT, like the licence payers' favourite, will also have contributed some much needed revenue to the club. Dare I ask the Eric Morecambe question with regard to HUFC's streaming service? "What do you think of it so far? - Rubbish!" has got to be the answer, particularly when you look at the quality of other clubs' efforts. Darlo for example; their streaming service is light years ahead of Pools'. 

I know several Pools fans who have said that they will not buy into any further streamed matches until the picture quality and sound is of an acceptable quality. This at a time when cash is in short supply and the club cannot afford to lose the vital revenue that streaming brings in. Basic stuff, Pools. Get it sorted.

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