World Championship Handball Web Streaming: Slow, but Steady Progress

This past weekend the Computer Electronics Show (CES) took place in Las Vegas and one of the big themes of the convention was web TV and how in the near future everyone will seamlessly watch internet video on their TV in the their living room.

We’re certainly not there yet in terms of Team Handball, but slow and steady progress is being made. Did, I say slow? Yes, and by slow, I mean less than optimum transmission speeds for a fast paced sport like Handball. The IHF website announcement concerning their WebTV platform for the upcoming World Championship states: “All videos will be delivered in highest streaming quality” but this is not an accurate statement. In fact, the speed will only be .7 Megabits per second (Mbs), the same speed that was provided in 2007.

What is somewhat frustrating is that the provider of the web streaming broadcasts for the upcoming World Championships, Sportfive, has a proven capability to provide a more high quality product. This product is the HBL.TV platform which shows hundreds of German Bundesliga games at 1.5 Mbs. The quality is outstanding and once you have watched an game on your computer it’s difficult to accept the lower quality that .700 Mbs provides. I contacted Sportfive for an explanation for the “half speed” and they indicated that the worldwide simultaneous demand can’t support that many bits going out at the same time and doing so would risk some viewers getting shut out There’s some logic to that argument, but my engineering sense is that it could be overcome with the right equipment and the right network setup. Looks like we’ll have to wait till 2011 for a better picture.

I’m also a little miffed that the price has jumped to 29.99 Euros for this year’s complete package. This is a 10 Euro increase from what was charged for the 2007 WC package, with apparently no accompanying increase in quality. Hey, but we’re handball fans, many of living in dead zones where there are no other options. We’re simply going to open our wallets and pay.

IHF Announcement on Web Streaming:
My 2007 web streaming review: (note, how happy I was with .700 Mbs just two years ago)
Handball on TV in the U.S.?: Yes:

[b]A Note on ESPN 360:[/b] USA Team Handball and ESPN 360 will likely be providing more information in the coming days of which matches will be available with this platform. I’m not on expert on ESPN360, but I think it will only be an option for a limited number of households in the U.S. (College students and overseas military take heart, ESPN360 is free for .edu and .mil addresses.) I’m guessing that the quality of the web stream is similar, but would definitely like any feedback from a regular ESPN360 watcher. Email me at or simply post your experience in the forum section.