The Sports Channel on Windows Media Center

Defending Big D has entered into a partnership with TV On Your PC and Microsoft to give insight and a better understanding on how sports fans can better use Windows Media Center. As part of that partnership, I will be testing their new Sports Channel application and giving them my thoughts on a future trip to Microsoft in Seattle. You can find my profile on their website here.

As internet technology advances, the way we as sports fans view our favorite teams has changed over the years and especially for those of us watching from out of market locations. Just a few years ago we were stuck watching slow online broadcasts and dismal video quality feeds. Yet lately television networks and sports providers have taken advantage of broadband speeds to broadcast high quality, and in some cases high-definition, feeds of our favorite sports programming.

Whether it's NHL Center Ice online, MLB.tv, or NBC's ever increasing expanding online coverage of national games the choices fans have of watching sports online has increased exponentially over the past year. Yet the sports fans are not the only consumers benifitting from online television. Most major networks have also gotten in on the action, providing full episodes of popular shows online with minimal advertisements.

Follow the jump to read about how Microsoft has joined in on the online programming action.

With the online television business ever expanding, Microsoft has decided to attempt to become the front-runners in providing online media access to their users. Windows Media Center has evolved over the past few years to become a top of the line method for viewing multimedia on your PC and provides an easy to use central program for organizing and viewing pictures, videos and music. If you have a tuner on your computer, Windows Media Center also provides an exceptional means for watching live television on your computer, including full DVR functionality and local program guides.

Just a few weeks ago, Microsoft launched their newest feature for Media Center. The Sports Channel is a new application the has sports programming from CBS, NBC and Fox Sports, and all that is needed is a broadband internet connection. The biggest feature of the application right now is the partnership with CBS Sports and the NCAA tournament. The new features gives sports fans all-access to the NCAA tournament and a great way to view sports content from all over the web.

Now just like any new application, there are some hiccups. Unfortunately you cannot view live games (Microsoft has to license the content) and there are some interface issues. Yet this is still a great tool to view sports videos, highlights and features from a number of networks.

For instance, the NBC Sports feature has a number of great behind-the-scene hockey videos and interviews, something you can't find anywhere else. The same goes for Fox Sports and the NCAA coverage on CBS. These are videos and in-depth coverage you won't find on TV or anywhere else on the internet.

Perhaps the best feature of the Sports Channel is how clear the video is and how little load time there is. In fact, in my time testing the application I never had any issues with buffering or the video skipping. It's a great way to go back and watch games and highlights without having to wait for the online feed to load.

If you have Vista and have used Windows Media Center and The Sports Channel, be sure to post your thoughts below. I will be visiting Microsoft soon to give them my thoughts on the application and how they can maximize the potential of their product. I will be sure to pass along any thoughts you guys might have.

Here's the official release about the launch:

Going live today in time for the Men's College Basketball Tournament later this month, the new "Sports Channel" for Windows Media Center offers a wide range of sports coverage from CBSSports.com, Fox Sports, MSNBC.com and more, all in one place. Coverage includes breaking sports news, interviews of your favorite players, you can track your fantasy sports teams, and more.

If you're connected to the internet, simply launch Windows Media Center on a PC or laptop running Windows Vista Home Premium or Ultimate and scroll down to Sports, and click on the Sports Channel tile.

With the Sports Channel's "College Hoops" feature stream coverage and highlights of the men's College Basketball games in March and April with Windows Media Center. Providing other options in addition to/other than viewing the game live, viewers can watch:

• Watch complete games in condensed form shortly after the games are completed (condensed form means you get all the game action without timeouts, half time, ball retrieval, etc.)
o Watch the marquee games in the first two rounds, then all the games after that through to the championship game
• Game Highlights (1-2 min)
o Highlights from every tournament game (63 games total)
• Post Game Interviews (1-2 min)
o Post game interviews as available
• Buzzer Beaters (2-10 min)
o Last few minutes plus of select games with great finishes

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