BBC vs ITV : World Cup video streams – a usability review

Over the last week or so I’ve been keeping up to speed with the various movements of the football World Cup, and this has often meant watching games online. After various positive and negative experiences, I thought I’d do a brief usability review of the two main contenders for UK viewers, especially because I fel they contrasted quite strongly.??

Looking for a stream??
Each time, I was trying to track down a current live stream of a game in progress. After a few Google searches along the lines of ‘live stream world cup’ and similar I realised along the line that whichever Uk station was showing the game was also streaming it online. Some games in the Uk have been shown on BBC 1, some on ITV 1. It’s getting a little different now where some game run at the same time so are on various channels / radio stations concurrently. I also believe that if England make it to the semi finals (ahem) it will be on both channels simultaneously. Some are regarding this as a battle of the commentators??but for those of us experiencing it online, maybe web usability comes into play too.??
So, let’s have a look at the two options.??
Let’s assume I know a game is currently on BBC 1, I will probably do a search like this…
First of all, interesting ??to see that Google picks up and displays a nice table of upcoming games. I like it when Google is clever. I think there’s also a version of that which says which channel they’re showing on, but I can’t remember how I found that.??
Actually, in my first searches I was drawn to the official FIFA site for the streams but found they didn’t want to load in.
So, click 1??is on the first link there, the one you see in purple. This takes me to…
I am probably more of a BBC user than ITV (definitely true on tv at least, and the web) so I’m immediately drawn and made to feel comfortable by recognisable elements of the page, the BBC logo, the recently introduced top level navigation, the BBC Sport logo, typefaces, etc.??
There’s a lot going on here but not so much to completely lose me. The white on red text LIVE NOW buttons seem to draw me in as specifically interactive or immediate elements, maybe because we’re used to seeing this used for BBC news and breaking news. The LIVE NOW in the centre of the screen also clarifies by mentioning Video, audio, text commentary and stats.??NB on my laptop at home, the screen crops at half the height of the main body image, but I still see the inviting relevant link.??
So, click 2 is??LIVE NOW…

This looks promising, I think I’m on the right track. A stream of text comments on the left from official pundits and the odd, selected text from viewers give a rolling account of the game (worth noting, when we compare to ITV). They only update every 30 seconds, which might seem enough, but a lot can happen in 30 seconds! The Germany – Serbia game is the one currently on, so I’m not sure what would happen if I clicked the WATCH LIVE link at the top, does the page refresh? I’m not too bothered by this, because what I actually did at this stage was click the familiar play button on the main video image. Again, I have to declare I am used to using BBC iPlayer so there was some added familiarity here – this video followed all the visual conventions of iPlayer.??

So, click 3 is the play > button…

And I’m in! I’m now watching the game streaming live, or at least some poor guy being stretchered off the pitch. So, my route to the live stream was 3 clicks.??

BBC – some other points
Of course, getting to the stream is only the beginning, you soon start looking around for things like stats, who’s playing, red and yellow cards doled out, etc. BBC do some of this ‘below the fold’ on the stream page:
I like the fact the information I wanted is there and nothing more really, it’s not an overload. It would be nice to see the yellow and red cards updating live on the page but I’m not sure if this is even possible without interrupting / reloading the video stream. As it was, if someone got a card in the game you had to refresh the page to see it added.
Boxing out, and tabbing of pages of information (Team / Match Stats) worked well. The text commentary also managed to keep a house style even though it seemed to be coming from many sources – was it being sub-edited on the fly???
Interestingly, they also combined a breadcrumb showing the location of the WORLD CUP footage in red, alongside a blue top level navigation for all the main world cup content they had. I don’t think I’ve ever seen both together online like that but it works well, and I’ve only just realised that’s what they did so it obviously doesn’t jar too much.??
Similarly to the above, I started with a search because I knew the game was on ITV – same phrase but ITV replacing BBC.

Try to ignore the broken images on my browser, this test was done on my laptop on my home, hence slightly more cropped screenshots too. It’s not the first link below the Google table here, but it’s still pretty conclusive, and I think web users are getting pretty good at filtering out the ‘spam’ links on Google searches based on what they’re searching. i.e. if we’re searching for a live video stream we know immediately to rule out anything starting with the word News as we see in the first link there. Note the description text for the 2010 FIFA World Cup – ITV Football??link is possibly more indicative of there being a live stream among that list of features, than the BBC Google link.??

So, click 1??is??2010 FIFA World Cup – ITV Football. Taking me to…

Oh. Well, there seems to be a lot of football related content here but I’m not sure where the game is. To be honest, looking at this screenshot now I can’t honestly say exactly what I clicked to get to the next screen, it’s that unclear. I appreciate a lot of this content is related to the World Cup but if a game is currently live on the ITV stream, I’d expect to see a larger link.

I think click 2??was on the ITV Live thumbnail you see in the right of the row of thumbnails under the main image. But that may not have been my first click – we’re just talking the shortest optimum path I can make out. Taking us to…??
A large advert for the FIFA video game? Oh no, it’s just a generic image of England’s ‘star’, Rooney (I am definitely not bitter at having put a bet on Rooney as top goalscorer). Anyway, this image is irrelevant if I want to watch the current Spain vs Honduras match.??
There’s a button here which is red, so I’m drawn to it, but I’m not sure what this will then ask me to do – looks like I have to ‘Join Now’, i.e. create some kind of ITV account, which I don’t really want to have to do – it implies that ties me into being spammed with ITV advertising emails. I partly think this because ITV is synonymous with advertising, BBC is not.??
Again, it might not have been my first choice but click 3??is that Join Now button. Taking me to…


Oh gosh. Now this is what I mean by information overload. I just want to watch the game, I don’t need all of this – half of it I can’t even immediately make out what it’s telling me. Some of those Get Involved type polls assume that a) I want to give them my opinion and that b) I will care about others’ opinion, which I don’t really. I just want to watch the game.??
One positive effect is that I’m so scared to click anything for fear of where it will take me, I click nothing until I’m sure but it takes some digesting. Eventually I make out the WATCH & CHAT button in the tiny top nav, which is actually I see now a selection of ‘views’. There’s a play icon there but it could really do with promoting, using colour to draw focus, or using some better icon to imply video. WATCH & CHAT is click 4.????
We’re making progress, but still no game. That big black rectangle is definitely promising though. There’s a chat function here, which is interesting, and seems to be unmoderated (not safe for children?). It is much more immediate than the BBC official commentary though. Unfortunately, my first entry into this chat didn’t work out as I typed into the ‘Enter Your Name’ box and my name in the chat then appeared to be something like ‘this game is rubbish’. It’s at least nice to see I can quickly enter this chat without needing to enter a Facebook / Yahoo account details or make a whole new ITV account, I’m straight in.??
At this point though, there’s still nothing on screen until…??
What’s going on, is that an advert? Oh right, I forgot, this is ITV. I guess I’m getting used to seeing adverts preceding videos in Youtube, just hadn’t expected it here… It’s actually quite a long advert, I can’t help feeling I’m missing a goal taking place RIGHT NOW! It wouldn’t be the first time ITV have played ads over goals after all…??
Eventually, I see this:
It’s a much blockier image than the BBC stream for some reason, but it is the game. Full screen, that blockiness (which must be to do with compression they’re using for the video) is pretty bad.
The problem is, it’s taken me so long to get here now, I don’t feel inclined to explore other areas of stats and data, which they obviously want you to do. For example, previous goals I’d assume are accessible through clicking the links below the video e.g. 51′ Goal. I found this more inviting on the BBC site where the use of a thumbnail implied this would show a video clip of that goal. ??
In all then, ITV provide the same content with 4 clicks and a lot of waiting. Part of that wai
ting is for video to load in, and for adverts to finish. Part of it was trying to find the correct route through.??
BBC – 3 clicks
ITV – 4 clicks
Other than this, I don’t have any ‘time on task’, error counts or pass/fail data. When we do user tests in the lab we try and establish whether 1) someone has ‘passed’ a task on their own, 2) whether they failed, even with help from us, or 3) whether they ‘half passed’ because it was only partly completed or needed a lot of help to complete – I think it’s fair to say both ITV and BBC would have generated mostly passes, with maybe a few more half passes with ITV. Time on task might have been 50% longer for the ITV site than the BBC site, including loading times, etc. The image quality for me is a big issue, with BBC winning ??that battle. And finally, I would rather hear from BBC commentators and pundits every 30 seconds than Tom, Dick and Harry pub commentators spilling their views into the chat every 1/2 second, but maybe this just relates to my personal preferences.??
Anyway, in my book, BBC wins.??
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7 Responses to BBC vs ITV : World Cup video streams – a usability review

  1. Rob says:

    One thing we found with ITV was that users were clicking on "World Cup 2010" on the ITVPlayer page expecting to be taken to the live game. They would then sit through 30-60 seconds worth of ads only to be confounded by the fact that they were watching last nights replay.On a personal note, I find the BBC site to be streets ahead. I’ve no idea who’s doing ITV’s site but I’m amazed they can go so wrong…

  2. Anonymous says:

    Rob, have you done testing too then?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Good review. i thought exactly the same, the "Join Now" button put me off straight away. Together with the facebook icons dotted around I thought I was going to be joining up with some account thing, so i navigated away for the first few times. I went to and found an alternate link to watch itv live without all the mess and confusion on the itv world cup site. I presumed they must have made it that bad on purpose to limit how many people watch it live, I mean bandwidth costs them money. It can’t surely be that bad on purpose? Can it?BBC site is streets ahead, even has a handy prominent link to watch none BBC TV covered games on ITV.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Interestingly, looking at these pages again now, ITV have changed the wording on their page so it says ENTER NOW instead of JOIN NOW.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I just clicked a "video" button on the itv world cup sport homepage section, next to some text about live coverage of the game, only to be taken to a page with the Brazil manager giving an interview. I only realised this wasn’t the link to the game when it had gone 3 o’clock and the game was not showing. by the time i found the right link i had to sit through 2 mins of adverts again.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I had problems joining the game just now actually, it was only letting me share the link, not join the game, maybe due to overcrowding on servers? Also, I noticed if you go from the video view to the grid view and then back, you get fed more (actually the same) trailers. Also did you see it says ITV Live Beta, as if to excuse the rubbishness…

  7. Anonymous says:

    No exactly, it is also for me cutting back to the ads even if i just <br/>resize the screen. What are they doing switching the site to a ‘beta’ <br/>service that is so rubbish during something as major as the football <br/>world cup?

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