How to watch the Black Caps vs Bangladesh for free – and why YouTube is actually the best live sports streaming platform.
New Zealand Cricket nerds hoping to watch the first match of the Black Caps’ pre-World Cup ODI series against Bangladesh last week were out of luck – not only was it rained off, it wasn’t available on either of the cricket’s two usual homes, Sky Sport or TVNZ+*.
Neither was the second match, but by then plenty of savvy Black Caps fans had discovered the workaround: an account called “Rabbitholebd Sports” was streaming the series for free on YouTube.
Despite sounding like the most illegal and pop-up-riddled sports streaming website ever invented, Rabbitholebd Sports (“Top sports platform in the territory of Bangladesh”) is in fact the series’ official Bangladesh rights holder, and its YouTube (8.9 million subscribers) is totally legit. Not only that, the viewing experience is easier and better than if they were streaming on Sky Sport Now, TVNZ+ or just about any other bespoke sports streaming platform.
Watching live, the games play smoothly and with an image quality good enough for all but the most punishing audiovisual purists. If you miss a wicket, it’s easy to scroll back in the broadcast without bringing the whole stream to a grinding, buffering halt. It’s easy to play on the TV, either through the widely-available YouTube app or by casting from a phone or laptop.
If you missed the second ODI live – if, indeed, this is your first time ever hearing about Rabbitholebd Sports – then you can still enjoy a smorgasbord of highlights. Here, again, this humble YouTube account outperforms the Black Caps’ usual streamers. Aside from the 20-minute match highlights, there’s another highlights video with just the wickets, along with packages dedicated to individual batting or bowling performances – you can watch a two-minute package of Tom Blundell’s 68 with the bat, for example, or Ish Sodhi’s career-best six-wickets with the ball.
From a user perspective, YouTube is pretty much the best live sports streaming platform available right now. Beyond the Black Caps vs Bangladesh, there’s a surprising amount of live sport to be found there, mostly on an if-you-know-you-know basis. (I only recently discovered the Asian Champions League and Uefa Women’s Champions League are live on YouTube. There’s probably plenty of other sports that aren’t football too.)
Basically, YouTube has every feature you need for live sports and none you don’t. At the other end of the spectrum, there’s Fifa Plus – the new home of New Zealand men’s and women’s National League football, as well as All Whites and Football Ferns friendlies.
Prior to this season, if you wanted to watch shaky single-camera coverage from barren suburban playing fields or be blinded by the sheen of an artificial turf pitch, your options were limited to one or two games a week on the NZ Football YouTube account. Me and the 200 or so other people who’d watch the games didn’t know how good we had it.
Having live streams of every National League game is, on paper, a dream come true for the New Zealand football tragic – but as with most Fifa products, Fifa Plus sure knows how to take the fun out of it.
It’s free to sign up and relatively simple to find the NZ Football landing page, and AirPlaying the stream to the TV is possible, if not entirely angst-free (the Fifa Plus TV app is available “on select Smart TVs”). But if you miss a goal and need to rewind the stream a few minutes? Somehow not possible on phone or laptop. Want to go back and rewatch the moment Hannah Wilkinson earned a red card for striking the assistant referee? You have to wait for the full match replay to be uploaded after the game.
Fifa has paid who-knows-how-many millions of dollars for a bespoke sports streaming platform where it’s impossible to do something as simple as rewind a live match. They should have just followed the Rabbitholebd Sports model: chuck it up on YouTube for free and give the people what they want.
(* TVNZ+ currently holds the rights to all domestic and international cricket played in New Zealand. Sky Sport usually has the Black Caps’ overseas internationals.)