I’m sure most of our Aussie readers have heard of NBA’s League Pass Broadband service which allows you to watch any game online. What you may not know is that this service is now offered internationally (and has been all season) and for a small fee, you too can enjoy watching every NBA game live. Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Sure we have Channel Ten showing live games now, but you’re still at the mercy of the schedulers and the odds of getting the game you want – especially if you don’t follow one of the big franchises – are quite slim. As of a few days ago I no longer have that problem, thanks to International League Pass Broadband. Here’s everything you need to know about it.

What is International League Pass (ILP) Broadband?
It’s the NBA’s League Pass Broadband service for all non-US countries. It streams every NBA game live via a browser (like IE or Firefox), just like watching any YouTube video. It will run on a Windows or Mac, but sadly Linux is not supported (annoying considering I want it to run on my Kubuntu-loving HP mini)

What is the quality like?
ILP isn’t going to stream full-screen DVD quality games to your computer, so you can forget that idea.  The quality varies depending on your connection speed, but even at its worst its far better than YouTube-quality video. By default it displays in a window that’s probably double the size of a YouTube video, and at this size its extremely watchable and the frame rate is good enough for watching fast-paced basketball. You can maximize it to fit the full screen, and while the resolution isn’t great its still quite watchable – today I watched most of the Lakers game in full-screen mode without getting annoyed. I should add that I have a pretty large 24″ monitor, so maximizing it on a standard 17″ or 19″ screen would give you much better results. The sound quality isn’t cinematic 5.1 surround or anything like that, but good enough for watching ball.

How smoothly does it stream?
Not quite Ray Allen-like smooth, but its ok. There’s other people sharing the Internet connection in my house, so when they were browsing/downloading I did notice my games requiring buffering every now and then. But when I had the connection to myself it was smooth sailing, and apart from the 5-10 second initial buffer time there were hardly any other delays or drop outs.

What kind of internet connection do you need?
A pretty decent one, and obviously you’ll need broadband. According to ILP’s FAQ, bandwidth usage will vary between 0.5Mbps and 1.0 Mbps. Telstra is my ISP, I’m using broadband cable (as opposed to ADSL), and I have an unlimited monthly download limit (which helps if you wanna watch a lot of games). I’m pretty sure I’m streaming close to the highest quality that ILP offers, but obviously without having compared it on other computers I can’t be 100% sure. If you want to benchmark your connection against mine, here are the results of my speed test over at speedtest.net:

If anyone else is using ILP from Australia and has noticed far better/worse results than what I’ve described, please leave a comment. I’m interested to know what other people’s experiences are.

How much does it cost?
Right now there is a special half-season subscription of $49.95 (in US dollars). This might have been a good deal when they started offering it before All-Star break, but with only a quarter of the season left it’s not really a smart buy (I am assuming it doesn’t include playoffs). I purchased a monthly subscription for $19.95 just to give it a try. Thirty-odd Aussie dollars for as much NBA you can handle in a month doesn’t seem like such a bad deal, does it?

Can you watch games on-demand?
No. While this would be extremely convenient, ILP does not allow you to watch a replay of an earlier game at any time you choose. Games are repeated at scheduled times only (every couple of hours), and only for the previous day or two. For example, right now I could log in to watch a replay of any of today’s games, but they will all be at different stages of the game. If you want to watch a game in it’s entirety, you will just have to check the replay schedule which is on their website (once you’ve signed up).

Conclusion
So far I’m pretty impressed with ILP, but its probably more to do with being overwhelmed with the choice more than anything else. I’m still coming to grips with the fact I can watch any NBA game I want live. As an Aussie NBA fan its a dream come true. So you may be asking why I only bothered signing up a few days ago? Well, recently I moved house and the house I was previously living in didn’t give me fast enough connection speeds (I was upstairs, wireless router was downstairs). Plus, our old connection had a 7GB monthly cap and I have no doubt that would have been breached very quickly by watching a few games per week.

So if you’ve got a decent connection and big download limit, and you’ve got a spare $30 bucks floating around, definitely give ILP a try. While NBA TV is still out of the question for Australians, ILP is certainly the best option we’ve got when it comes to watching as many NBA games as possible. I’ll be interested to see what the deal becomes during playoff time – I’ll keep you all posted on that.

If any one has any questions around ILP leave a comment and I’ll be happy to answer it. And cheers to Laughton for the heads up in the FAQ post – that didn’t go unnoticed!

Update 23/12/09:This season I signed up for ILP Premium which gets you High Definition games. Much better quality, wide-screen, and easily viewable in full-screen on a PC. I’ve even hooked up my laptop to my 50″ Plasma TV and watched games comfortably in full-screen. From my estimates, it looks like watching one full high-def game will download you somewhere between 1GB – 2GB, depending on if you watch all the half/quarter time shows and commercials. Today I watched the entire Lakers v Thunder game without the half-time show and I downloaded 1.4GB. Also worth mentioning that I recently upgraded by Telstra plan to a faster plan (Elite Liberty) so I get no stuttering or buffering problems anymore. Before I did this, I couldn’t watch the high-def games – I had to always select Standard Def. My new speed test results are below:


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