Why ATDHE, in its current state, can be good for sports teams and leagues

ATDHE.net was shut down earlier this week as their domain name was seized as part of a Homeland Securities investigation. What streaming live sports has anything to do with defending the safety of the United States of America, I have no idea; but while the ferries I take at least once a week have no security whatsoever for walk-on passengers, we have a special agent chasing down those who aren't committing copyright infringement, just spreading it. Here's the image now in place on the old domain, while the site is back in place on a different domain.

A month ago I sung the praises of ATDHE for sports fans. Being completely honest, I went a bit too far. Sports fans absolutely cannot get by on using sites like ATDHE alone. And, for sports teams and leagues, this in-between ground where fans can check out games from time to time, but not get by on the service by itself, it is absolutely perfect.

First off, let's start with a couple reasons why ATDHE isn't that great and, as a result, serves as no legitimate threat to mainstream media outlets:

  • It is wildly inconsistent. The video streams on this site come from a number of different video services with the the feeds itself being broadcast from a wide range of individuals. The feed quality is almost never the same and, when there is a good feed, it's usually taken off the air at some point during the game.
  • It doesn't even have everything and some of the things it does have aren't found elsewhere. There are rarely any regular season Major League Baseball streams. As a Mariners fan, this site is no help whatsoever. For fans of La Liga or the English Premier League, there's nowhere else for fans on a non-ESPN3 ISP to watch these games online legally.
  • It's not even that popular amongst the general public. Almost everyone I mention it to has never heard of the site and, when I do mention it, no one ever remembers the name of the site and I have to tell them about it again later.

Now why is this good?

Almost all ATDHE users are using the site as a last resort. For the most part, they are not choosing to watch sports on ATDHE over a legal or paid method, they're choosing between watching the game on ATDHE or not watching it at all, for any number of reasons. It could be financial restraints preventing them from buying services like NBA League Pass Broadband or MLB.tv, or it could be because they just want to check the game out the game because they saw friends buzzing about it on Tweetdeck, but aren't committed to throwing down for every game.

I know the idea of giving away games for free is off-putting to some league or team officials, but in choosing between having casual fans (could still be diehard fans of the sport, but not the teams involved) watching your team's games or not doing so, why wouldn't you prefer the former?

Strengthening that point, which I admit seems ridiculous at first glance, let's look at the likely demographics of the site's user: probably younger, more technologically savvy, possibly the group of people that cannot afford sports packages or even cable at alll, but are still passionate enough to explore every possible avenue to watch the game. These are the next generation of fans. Look at who those characteristics could define: college students, sports bloggers, casual fans looking to become bigger ones and technologically-savvy fans who may use other tools to spread the word on the game.

Why shouldn't a team or league make a minor investment in allowing this group to watch sports for free over having them not watch games at all?

To close it out, fighting ATDHE is total waste of time. Not only can the site pop right back up in a matter of days with a slightly altered URL, but doing so may ultimately be detrimental to the copyright holders the site infringes upon. So, let it be. The site isn't taking a major chunk out of the mainstream media's bottom line but only giving mediocre access to casual and/or influential fans who wouldn't be watching what they're viewing otherwise.

Everyone knows about ATDHE.NET, right? Watch live sports online for free

ESPN recently released a study saying that everyone is really overreacting to the notion that people might start going without cable television. According to their study, only 0.28% of American households have cut their cable cords in the past three months. This seems lower than it should be.

Plain and simple, I watch sports as much as anyone I know and I've gotten by just fine for more than a year without paying for cable. That said, I don't not pay for TV. Of the things I pay for, there's MLB.tv, NBA League Pass Broadband and an XBox Live subscription so I can watch ESPN3. I get what I want (aside from in-market MLB games), and nothing I don't. Taking all that away one can see quite a lot of sports for free.

"How?" you ask: ATDHE.net.

I don't remember how exactly I came across this marvelous site but it has been an absolute godsend. Whenever one of the games I want to watch isn't available through my nornal outlets, this usually has me covered. Alright, some unorganized bulleted observations:

  • The quality isn't perfect. It can range from very good to pretty bad depending on the event and the provider of the video. There are some providers that are pretty solid though, and look very good when pulled up on my roughly 30" Vizio.
  • The video found on the site isn't actually broadcast by them. They link to other outlets and channels that are broadcasting the game. An example is Justin.TV, which you want to avoid if you can. It's similar to various scandalous movie sites that link to out-of-country streams of major films.
  • For the best quality and consistency, shoot for video that's broadcast through either Veetle or VShare.tv. You won't be able to tell which is which by looking at the site's list of links, and will need to download a plug-in for each when prompted, but it's worth it. These have the highest quality and are less likely to be shut down in the middle of a broadcast. Justin.TV is, generally, not the best. Sometimes you'll catch one with good quality (rare) but these are the most likely to be shut down due to copyright infringement because it's right up on the Justin.TV site and easy to find. Also, VShare.tv requires Firefox.
  • This one took me ahile to figure out. Say you're using an Apple laptop plugged into a larger monitor and want to have the large monitor display the game while you're doing whatever else on the laptop. If you fullscreen the window on the large screen and then go to click on anything on the small screen, it un-fullscreens the sports. To fix this, open the sports, hit CMD+T to open a new tab and this should resolve it.
  • Fun easter egg: sometimes games are coming back into the US from people streaming the game in other countries. So, what's being broadcast on ESPN America or whatever channel they're getting it on may be different from traditional American TV. This means they might leave the camera on in the arena/stadium, or at least come back a little earlier than they would because the advertising is nonexistent or doesn't match up. If you're really lucky, they'll leave the broadcasters' mics on too. I've never caught anything scandalous but sometimes you'll hear them candidly talking about a play or player, possibly planning what they're going to come out of the break with. It can be entertaining.
  • Now, what can you watch? This is a rough summary based on what I've seen.
    • Just about all NFL games. And the Redzone channel. Quality can vary based on the popularity of the game.
    • Most, if not all, NBA games. Now the quality usually isn't going to be as good as NBA League Pass Broadband but getting something instead of nothing is pretty good.
    • MMA and Boxing. This is the best. Without access to PPV and then throwing down major money, you can't watch these. Well, you could go to a bar. But this is a worthwhile alternative. And because these are pretty popular events, the quality and quantity of streams available is pretty good.
    • A fair amount of hockey. It could be all games, but I'm not sure as I don't watch a significant amount of hockey.
    • Now, the catch is with Major League Baseball. The amount of MLB games available is nowhere near what you'll see for the NBA and NFL. You will, however, get playoff games and maybe a couple big games each night. All-in-all, not bad for free.
    • Various international sports. Soccer, racing, etc.

I think that's about as much as I could possibly write on the subject. If you know about the site, great, most sports fans already should. If you don't, it's worth a shot. It's good when you're at the office late and want to catch a game, hear there's a good out-of-market game coming down to the wire or, even better, just don't want to pay for cable.