AMITIAE - Sunday 20 October 2013

Cassandra: MotoGP TV Coverage and the Internet

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By Graham K. Rogers


Many people in Thailand, including several of my students, love soccer. Unsurprisingly, television coverage of this is quite good here, although there have been disagreements over who covers what. I tend to ignore this as football (soccer, US Football) leaves me cold.

Like many from the UK, I had to play at high school, but managed to avoid it some of the time by going swimming instead which the headmaster thoroughly approved of. My sporting love, instead, focussed on the mechanical.

I can remember following Grand Prix racing since the 1950s when the cars had engines in the front. The same was so for motorcycle racing and was a fan of the late Mike Hailwood (whom I later saw at the Nurburgring in F1). I went car and motorcycle races quite often.

My Sundays these days are usually reserved for Formula One or MotoGP racing, but on occasion, the True TV coverage lets me down. Currently, there are two channels from the service provider that show these races: 108 and 163.

Of the two, I prefer 163 as the picture quality is better. It is the same feed but the Fox service handles the signal better than Star Sports: at least when it arrives at my TV. When I turned on the set for the Moto3 Race from Australia's Phillip Island, that was due to start at 09:00 here, even though the information bar showed "MotoGP World Championship - 08:57 - 13:00" I was treated to a baseball game (Detroit v Boston).

I know that there are thousands of fans of the sport and I am pleased for them. However, the number of fans that may wish to watch the sport in this region may be considerably smaller. For me, it is like Wagner: magnificent moments with boring half hours. No matter, Channel 108 - Star Sports - would have to do.

Except that during the course of the first race (Moto3 which is always exciting) the signal from Australia cut. Not once, but 4 times. On two occasions, for several minutes. If this was Formula One, I would be pulling my hair out.

Slowmo Screenshot from Dorna MotoGP Feed

The baseball continued for the entire Moto3 race and only when Moto 2 was lining up did I see a notice that "The next scheduled Programa will follow the conclusion of this live event" from Fox, not from the local service. As motor racing delays also cause such delays to coverage, it would be wrong to criticise this, frustrating as it seems, even though this over-ran the Moto2 race as well.

However, Fox blotted their copybook by not switching to the MotoGP coverage when the baseball was over. Instead, viewers were treated first to Moto Cross, then to rallying - both recorded, not live - and finally to golf, an hour earlier than scheduled. True still showed the MotoGP information. I hate this arbitrary switching from advertised programs. Customers may plan their days around the programs they have paid for.

Fortunately, this year I had subscribed to the Dorna Sports internet service for MotoGP and switched to the computer. The pictures are as good, when I use the HD settings, and the service has the same excellent commentators. There is a delay of around 15 - 20 seconds over the TV feed. But if there is nothing on TV, that 20 seconds evaporates. There is also an advantage that I can rerun the race videos when I want. This is especially convenient when the races are run in the small hours, or if they conflict with Formula One.

The service, which I reviewed close to the beginning of the season in April this year, works. I noted in that earlier review that the TV signal here is not 100% reliable. That situation remains, especially when it rains as the signal to the KU-band antennas used here cuts when that happens.

Screenshot from Dorna MotoGP Feed

There are two races left this season and Dorna Sports usually has a reduced fee for the end of the season. With the lack of a guarantee that the TV service will be available for what the customer wants to view, I will be subscribing again next year.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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