TheWashbag Reviews: STFC Player HD

We continue our focus on the club’s interaction with supporters as Ron Smith reviews the latest version of the ‘STFC Player’ premium service ‘Player HD’…

What Is STFC Player HD?

“STFC Player” is a premium content service offered as part of the overall club branded website. The service is offered by club websites throughout the Football League, including some Premier League and National League clubs.

“Player HD” is the latest version of the service, launched in June / July 2015.

Player is the best way for fans to keep up-to-date with the very latest news and views from the heart of their club. It gives supporters access to live match commentary, extended match video highlights and lots of exclusive content from behind the scenes at their club – The Football League

What does Player HD offer?

  • Live audio commentary of every game;
  • Match video highlights (for instance the highlights of the Swindon vs Bradford City game extended to 10 minutes and 38 seconds); and
  • “The very latest inside news from the County Ground – including exclusive video content unavailable through any other channel”

How premium is it..?

It’s advertised at “from only £4.49 per month”.

Blimey, that’s £53.88 per year!

Indeed, for those buying the subscription on a month-by-month basis, but as the club would probably point out it’s a fraction of the £169 per year cost for home delivery of the Swindon Advertiser newspaper…

Are there any other options?

Yes, there are actually cheaper options instead of buying Player HD on a month-by-month basis. You can purchase an annual pass: for recurring Direct Debit it costs £37.99; or £42.99 via a debit card, credit card or PayPal.

So, in what way has Player HD changed from the original ‘STFC Player’?

As you might’ve guessed, first and foremost…it costs a little bit more.

The difference for those paying by recurring Direct Debit is an increase of £1.49 for the annual pass.

Why does it cost more..?

Things do.

I understand the price is dictated by the Football League, not necessarily Lee Power wanting fans to pay more for media access…

It’s also “new and improved”.

What this means is that the website and accompanying apps have been redesigned.

In all fairness, the new look is a significant improvement over the previous clunky version. It’s now a simple design that is very accessible and easy to navigate. The page design is also now responsive so that it fits the screen whether viewing on mobile, tablet or PC.

The match / video highlights are also now shown on a larger embedded video screen. The quality of these match videos is much improved, I presume in HD, hence the change in the name to ‘Player HD’, but, it must be said that not all videos are in HD quality.

That’s okay, but it doesn’t sound much. Is it all improved?

Despite these presentation changes, to date, there’s been no greater focus on additional content despite the recent commitments when publicising the club’s new media arrangements. This promised to give the club more say in delivery content directly to supporters and with an aim to ‘offer an insight into how the club is run’.

For instance, ‘Exclusive Club Videos’ remain very rare. In the vital pre-season period, when supporters are craving for information about the team and new signings, there were no videos until 2nd July. Then, apart from match highlights, only five videos offered any insight during pre-season. There were no interviews with players (signings or renewals) such as Kevin Stewart, Anton Rodgers, Drissa Traoré, Fabien Robert, Jordan Turnbull, Ellis Iandolo, Lawrence Vigouroux, James Brophy or Brad Barry. A real behind-the-scene feature would’ve been welcome… There have been some more videos in the past week, however anyone who’s watched the Jordan Stewart interview will understand why the club need to invest a small amount of money in a miniature lapel microphone.

Moving to the live audio commentary – which remains the BBC Wiltshire feed – still omits the pre-match build up. It still has the annoying, but occasional, short breaks in transmission. Also, it remains delayed and by my estimation it remains at least 20-40 seconds behind the actual FM BBC Wiltshire broadcast. This is frustrating for anyone listening online while following social media giving away plenty of spoilers…

Unfortunately for those wanting a different perspective on games, there doesn’t appear to be an option anymore to listen to the live audio feed of the opposition match commentary.

Also, in terms of the availability of the mobile app, only Android and Apple devices are supported. This means Windows Phone, and other users cannot access the live stream of the audio match commentary – as happened to recently ensuring I missed listening to the Bury and Southend commentaries via my mobile.

The main frustration is that general club news isn’t now reported on Player HD. This means that you have to switch between Player HD and the main website for all the information about the club.

Oh, I nearly forgot… there’s been something called ‘The Wall’ for a while now. Clearly the club have also forgotten as it hasn’t been updated since 5th August 2014!

So should I subscribe to STFC Player HD?

I can image that if you live outside of the BBC Wiltshire broadcast area, Player HD will be an expensive, but essential purchase. You have no other choice to listen online to ‘live’ match audio, but is that worth between £37.99 to £53.88 per year..?

If you can listen to BBC Wiltshire for free, unless you are interested in watching 10 minute highlights of games, Player HD probably isn’t for you as there currently isn’t enough ‘exclusive content’.

What should the club do to improve Player HD?

Now that the right, user-friendly website platform / app exists, it’s time for the club to generate the ‘exclusive content’ the site deserves.

The annual cost is significant and this is promoted as a ‘premium’ product by the Football League to give fans something extra. So if Lee Power is going to distribute news to supporters via official channels and promise to “engage the fans and give them more of an insight into how the team and the club is run”, please make it a priority to give supporters value for money on the STFC Player HD service.

Subscribe to STFC Player HD here

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