Kayo Sports Beta hands-on review
Is the Kayo live sports streaming service any good? And how does the experience compare with existing services?
Australians love sport. Australians love live sport. So, any new service in this space is likely to receive a lot of attention. Kayo is a brand new live sports streaming service that is set to be a major disruptor to the viewing habits of sports fans around the country. We've been hands-on with Kayo and reviewed the features available in the beta.
From a bird's eye view, the offering is compelling. The most amount of sports for the least amount of cost. At the time of writing, Kayo remains in beta form, but is perfectly functional on nearly all devices. (See our app review for more.) A native app for Apple and Android mobiles and tablets, as well as Apple TV, released on November 19, following the initial launch of a browser and ChromeCast version on November 7.
Telstra TV support is still incoming, alongside more anticipated channels in the future. While unconfirmed, we believe this could include Smart TVs and video game consoles.
As such, this review will need to be updated as Kayo moves out of beta and into a full launch. But as you can subscribe now, it warrants a review now. Note: The video above includes a live stream of Kayo in action via a browser.
Over 50 Sports on Kayo
While Kayo may not bear the Fox Sports name, as a sister product, it retains all the same streaming rights. Therefore, if you can watch it on Foxtel, you can likely watch it on Kayo. That goes for all seven Fox Sports channels, Fox Sports news, three beIN Sports channels and two ESPN channels.
Missing from Kayo but available on Fox Sports are three premier league club channels (Liverpool TV, Chelsea TV and Manchester United TV), three Sky Racing channels and Eurosport.
In total there are still over 50 sports, including the big-ticket items such as the live broadcasts of NRL, AFL, Cricket, V8 Supercars, Super Rugby, World Surf League and the F1.
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It's not just live sports, with on-demand sport available of previous games (including legacy games). The original programming from FoxSports (such as NRL 360, Fight Night and The Back Page) are also available on Kayo too. While there is no confirmation yet on whether Kayo will produce any of its own unique content in the future, we did notice some Kayo specific highlights packages during our time on the service.
Kayo's price is right
Perhaps the most significant positive for Kayo is its price point. At $25 per month for two simultaneous streams (as in two screens, not picture-in-picture), or $35 for three simultaneous streams, it's great value. In a world where people are used to getting Netflix for as low as $9.99 per month and most major sports have their own dedicated live streaming apps, Kayo needed to adapt from the old-school Foxtel packages.
And it has.
Given that to access the exact same content through Foxtel IQ/Foxtel GO or Foxtel Now will set you back $60 a month, the value feels real here. Granted you don't get access to 4K content (as you do with Foxtel IQ4), you can't record anything, and you don't get access to any of the non-sport content (as you do with Foxtel's Entertainment pack) but is that essential?
For the average Australian sports fans, Kayo's price is just about right. Perhaps too high for those interested in a single sport, but for multi-sport aficionados, it's better than getting multiple standalone dedicated apps from each sporting organisation (like NBA League Pass or NFL Game Pass).
The pros and cons of Kayo
The Kayo user interface is perfectly functional. It's comparable to what we've come to expect from the likes of Netflix, although it goes one step further. It highlights important live sports that are on right now in bigger boxes and allows you to join the action live or watch from the start. The promised "jump to key moments" feature is functioning although I noticed a delay of a fair few minutes before a highlight (such as a wicket in cricket) registers on the feed.
I liked seeing the related shows under the live event too. It includes press conference footage, previous game highlights and other added bonuses for fans to dive into.
I also spotted a "Kayo Mini" video. This is a feature Optus Sport introduced ahead of this year's Premier League season, whereby you could watch on-demand not just a full game or a brief highlights package, but something in the middle that just trims out all the fat and cuts to the good stuff.
It's handy when you've missed a game you're not overly dedicated to, but want to have seen enough of it to get a read on the performances of individuals or the team.
Also Read: How much data does Kayo use?
There's definitely some teething problems. At first, it looked extremely sharp and jumping between any section of the live match (an ODI between Australia and South Africa) worked a dream. But then the quality dropped to SD and it the stream froze. I refreshed the page and we were back up and running without having to log in again.
This happened again 10 minutes later. I was streaming on a 100/40 mbps NBN connection and experienced no other connection issues at the time so the drop was definitely on Kayo's side. It also didn't recover on its own. But these small hiccups are to be expected in a beta and comparatively, this is one smooth-sailing beta. Later we streamed for an hour without issue.
Also missing and very much needed is live stats or stats in general. Hopefully that's a feature coming in the future. We really wanted to be fed more info as we watched the game and had to head outside the website to find it.
Elsewhere the picture-in-picture feature is amazing. With the click of a button, you can suddenly have your desktop active and functional, while the sport streams over the top unaffected by your work. It's sure to be the bane of bosses everywhere and is a feature that will certainly be used a lot by this writer.
Also amazing is the split screen. We had no problems splitting the screen up four ways and streaming four live feeds at once. The UI here could be better. It's great how you can drag and drop screens into different areas and the way the active screen plays sound. However, getting feeds in and out of the four windows to start with isn't intuitive. And once you have one feed going, the menu allowing you to select other feeds is limiting in its choice.
The future of Kayo
The future for Kayo looks bright. More features are promised, including to ability to choose your own camera angle. We're more recently received the mobile and tablet versions, as well as Apple TV, and you can read about our experiences with those in our Kayo Sports App Review. But when will more smart TVs and game consoles get on board?
We're also intrigued to see what happens with Telstra's mobile and home broadband plans. With Kayo consuming so much data, plans that offer unmetered use of the Kayo service will be in high demand. Will we see bundles emerge that cater to this need? How much will these Kayo + Telstra broadband plans cost?
It's fair to say our expectations weren't very high flicking on Kayo for the first time. While the concept of a "Netflix for Sports" is great, the struggles of Foxtel Now and, more recently, Optus Sports, ensure Australians approach the word "streaming" with a trepidation born of bad experiences.
Yet Kayo is undoubtedly impressive. A number of Finder staff gathered around the laptop to gawk at the features and the HD live sport. Given the beta is only one day old at the time of writing, we can only expect improvements. Some refinements on the back end to deal with the odd crash, a fleshing out of the features and native apps on a range of devices will be welcomed,but there is nothing stopping you from jumping in right now and testing the service yourself (there's a 14-day free trial available now).
If you thought you could never have too many sports, Kayo is set to test that theory.