This morning at 9:00 a.m. (WST) I watched the first episode of Game of Thrones for season 5 via Foxtel Play streaming video.
I was in two minds about getting Foxtel Play because I had read a number of 'reviews' by people on the Web that the quality was only SD (standard definition, which is 576 lines) and the compression was very high thereby causing the playback to be overly grainy. The general view of these reviews was that the viewing experience with Foxtel Play was pretty average.
I must admit that a few streams that I watched in the last couple of days, including a couple of episodes of Walking Dead, were a little disappointing. They did appear to be SD and were over compressed.
However the Game of Thrones stream today was surprisingly better than I expected. Based on my viewing of Walking Dead I was expecting heavy compression and was prepared to be disappointed by the viewing experience—maybe even to the point of cancelling my subscription.
Due to the number of people that would be watching the stream I was also expecting a lot of lag.
By my assessment (and I am pretty good at this) the horizontal resolution was 720 line. The compression level was acceptable—although noticeable to someone who knows what to look for; but not distractingly noticeable. There was also some very obvious colour rainbowing in the dark scenes but even this was tolerable, and there are not too many such scenes in this first episode.
I watched Game of Thrones on a 24" 1920x1200 PC monitor that I am about an arm's length away from. In theory the viewing experience would be slightly better on a TV screen that you are 4 or 5 metres away from; although this will depend on the size of your TV (the bigger the TV the more noticeable is the compression grain because the pixels are further apart).
Overall my opinion would be that Foxtel, or someone, got the resolution and compression just about right for Game of Thrones, and you would expect this—that they put a bit more effort into getting it right for this particular stream.
So I won't be cancelling my subscription just yet.
At 5:30 p.m. when Foxtel will be streaming episode 1 again I might get to watch it on a 50" Samsung smart TV. If I do I will let you know what the viewing experience was like on that.
As for episode 1 of Game of Thrones, without dropping any spoilers, not a lot happened. As you might expect this first episode it is basically setting things up for the next nine episodes. It is sort of a refresher episode with just a tiny bit of forward motion.
I will mention the closing theme music at the end of the episode. It is yet another variation on the main Game of Thrones theme but it is awesome. I wish it had played out a bit longer than it did because with Foxtel Play I can't go back and listen to it again.
Oh yeah, that's one thing about Foxtel Play that is probably worth mentioning. On the PC at least—I don't know about the Xbox or smart TVs—there is no way to capture the stream (i.e., record the stream for replay later).