Thursday, 25 November 2010

How to catch the Ashes as an expat

The Ashes began last night and cricket fans everywhere are excited. Resident Aliens out in the USA and elsewhere have a harder time in viewing / listening than those in England or Australia, so I'll share some thoughts just in case they are of use.

The easiest solution to the viewing problem is Willow TV. After our failure to get satellite TV installed at our place with all the trees surrounding us, back in 2006, I was delighted to discover that there is an internet service that is pretty good and constantly getting better. I pay about $150 a year to get Willow TV's coverage online and that gives you pretty much everything -- home and away test series, one-dayers and everything. The quality is not at all bad and constantly getting better. As of this series, they have begun a 1Mbps HQ stream and I had it on for a couple of hours last night without interruption.

There is usually a choice of streams on Willow, so that at the moment you can either get the Aussie coverage (which includes Richie Benaud and Mark Nicholas) or the Sky One coverage (with all the usual suspects). We have our TV set up for it and so we can plug the laptop into it and watch on-screen.

I like a bit of Test Match Special too, though, and this presents an additional challenge. For some reason, they block off access to TMS for international users. Actually, they forgot to do this on day one and I was hopeful that there was no block. But it is back in effect again tonight and will be for the rest of the series. Luckily, there is a solution -- Expat Shield. This is relative newcomer on the scene but I find it quite the best way to access the BBC iPlayer. It's advertisement-funded and you just download it for free and then switch it on when you want to get some UK-based material. As long as you can cope with the ads, it's a great solution, especially for listening to the radio -- it's close to an uninterrupted stream.

The other thing that adds to the expat's listening experience is the TMS Podcast, which is free for all and, of course, compulsory listening. In the build up to the Ashes, there was an excellent series of Times podcasts and I am hoping that there will be more to come. I was pleasantly surprised to see that The Times had made these podcasts available for free given their recent erection of a pay-wall for the much less desirable text content. The Guardian too had a great preview podcast and I am hoping that there will be more to come.

1 comment:

billy v said...

Had a free preview of Willow during the recent England v Pakistan and was hooked.