Busy IT professionals can catch NBA games on the go with the new League Pass for iPhone application from MobiTV. League Pass, which delivers near-live broadcasts and recent replays to Apple's mobile device, worked well in eWEEK Labs' tests but could use some smoothing. Also, the same blackout rules that apply to League Pass broadcasts on cable TV or via the NBA.com Website apply to the app.
Hoops junkies now have a good option for watching National
Basketball Association games on the go: The new League Pass for iPhone
application from MobiTV delivers near-live broadcasts and recent
replays to Apple's mobile device.
I tested League Pass for the iPhone, which is available for $40 for
the full NBA regular season via the iTunes App Store. For the same
price, the application is also available to Android users via the
After launching League Pass for iPhone, the user is immediately
placed into the Live panel, which presents a series of boxes showing
the current day's games and their upcoming start times or progress
indicators (including score and quarter). For in-progress games,
users can click on a game box and, within seconds, see a nearly live
broadcast of that game (typically delayed by less than a minute from a
true live broadcast).
Broadcasts via the League Pass application are subject to the same
blackout rules that pertain to League Pass broadcasts on cable TV or
via the NBA.com Website. Users therefore should not expect to see their
home team in action unless they are travelling out of town (or the game
is not on local TV at all), nor will they gain access to any games
shown nationally via ESPN or ABC.
The game video is presented in landscape mode on the iPhone, but
only in one orientation (with headset connector to the lower
left). Unfortunately, the broadcast is of a 4:3 aspect ratio feed,
so there will be some letterboxing on the sides of the screen. I used
the iPhone's video zoom button to fill those bars on the side. This
cuts off a small portion of the top and bottom of the screen, but not
any of the on-court action or the broadcast's scoreboard.
I was pleasantly surprised with the video quality when using a Wi-Fi
network connection, given the speed motion on screen. Over a fast
Wi-Fi connection, I typically experienced a sharp picture when players
weren't moving around a lot and only minimal blurring while the game
was in progress. The video was certainly watchable on the iPhone's
Users with a 3G connection may also be able to view the games
depending on network conditions, although the picture will typically be
much more blurry or jagged when available. I liked that in limited
throughput conditions, the application will automatically downgrade the
user to an audio-only transmission instead of continuously attempting
to deliver choppy video.
However, I did not find the application very good at upgrading back
to video once throughput improved, forcing me to exit and re-enter the
game to reacquire the video feed. (The League Pass application covers
up the iPhone's signal strength and connection indicators, so there is
some guesswork as to when the network performance would be better
without exiting the application.).
Tapping the screen while a live game is playing brings up the
onscreen controls, providing limited playback options: I could pause
the broadcast, skip to live or jump back 30 seconds at a time. However,
there is no easy way to skip back to the beginning of the in-progress
I could also bring up an overlay box that presents limited player
statistics for both teams or league-wide scores for that day's games. I
could also log into Facebook or Twitter directly from League Pass to
send score alerts to my friends or followers. While I could edit
the message somewhat, I found I could not delete the little
advertisement added to the end of the message.
League Pass provides the option to turn on a notification alert
using Apple's iPhone Notification service to announce when an upcoming
game is about to start. From the Live panel, users can set up
alerts either for one particular game or every forthcoming game for a
given team. For single future games, users can move over the
schedule panel to see what upcoming games will be shown via League Pass
and schedule the notification.
The notification feature did not work at all in the initial version
of League Pass for iPhone, but the feature was fixed for the 1.1
release that showed up in the App Store on Nov. 16. Notifications
typically are delivered to the iPhone 2 or 3 minutes before the game
(about 12 minutes before tip-off, normally), provided the phone has
network connectivity to receive the alert.
Users also have at their fingertips limited access to replays of
games already played. From the Replay tab, I could watch any game
played over the last two days (again, subject to blackout rules and
regulations.) On the Replay tab, users can choose whether to see
the score for games already played.
On-screen controls differ slightly for replays. Users will see
a timeline scroll bar, allowing them to quickly navigate to a
particular part of the game. Certainly this skip-ahead feature
makes it easier to zero in on specific parts of the game, but I'd like
to see MobiTV enhance the feature further by adding hash marks for
significant time milestones, such as the beginning of a quarter.
Lastly, for bite-size consumption, League Pass offers a somewhat
boring Highlights panel that features three prepackaged highlight
collections. The packages include a daily Top 5, a rundown of a
day's games called the Daily Zap and a semi-regular package
called Nightly Notable (which seems like a Player of the Day
Down the road, I think there is definitely room for MobiTV to add
more game-by-game highlights and analysis for those who want to get an
in-depth take on a game without watching the whole thing. I'd also
like to see late-breaking news and fantasy basketball analysis
(provided via NBA.com's association with ESPN) for some added hoops
Senior Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at email@example.com.