Monday, 12 October 2009

Fireworks in the Ukraine, a damp squib online?

The dust is settling on the aftermath of the 1st ever England football match to be screened exclusivily online. As the pitch recovers from the burning flares - the analysts are wondering what this experiment means in the long term for sports broadcasting.

On Saturday night, the amide of the flares and fireworks, England lost their 100% record under Capello Flabio in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukriane. Meanwhile up to 500.000 either England fans paid up to 10 pounds to log on or attend the Odeon cinemas in 12 (or did not given this photo)

The main concern that surrounded the announcement of the deal was that of technical glitches and viewing quality. The Upshot appears to be a mixed result. The Swiss agency Kentaro, left holding the rights after Setanta went bust this year, and Perform, the internet broadcaster employed it to show the match after receiving no "satisfactory" offers from TV broadcasters, said almost nine in 10 viewers who responded to a post -match survey found the picture quality "satisfactory or better".

However numerous callers to radio shows on Sunday complained about glitches and delays in loading video and comentary - no doubt a result of living in a slow broadband area.

So, the question stands - when will we see the like of this again?

Remember this event came about after Setanta (who held rights to some of England's away Qualifiers) went to the wall in the UK. Kentaro rejected a bid of £ 1 million from the BBC for the live rights (the Beeb later struck an 11th hour deal for the highligths package) and decided to break the mold and put out the live broadcast online. Its hard to predict when more 'distressed purchase' rights will come to the market like this again. Can not see Sky, ESPN or the BBC going bust anytime soon. ITV are having a horrendous time but they are unlikely to try to unload this Champions League rights - its their best upmaket access to small audiences.

Either way - if these rights are up for grabs again, I'd be very interested to see a brand come in and become the facilitator and broadcaster. In many ways, this happened in part with the Ukraine match. Many national newspapers had Partnered Perform with The Game that offer to their readers (at a price of course), but it was the betting site, Bet365, who did bring The Game to its users for free.
For instance, could we see Ford also their Champions League partnership to the next level and provide the content? Clearly with the usual free-to-air trade off of being branded a exporsed content / ads from the advertiser.

Doing the maths, where possible on this experiement, its hard to make a case that more revenue was brought in by eskewing the traditional halls of rights is a TV broadcaster. Kentaro will not release the full numbers but given the estimate of 300.000 people buying on-line rights at anywhere from 4.99 to 11.99. Its come up short of an usual Sky audience for an away fixture of England (c. 2 million), the ad revenue Sky would attract and the price they might pay.
But its not beyond our Imaginations to find other ways of monetising this sort of deal. Meaning that it could become viable to see this again, screened in a similar way. Although the Internet broadcaster would need to do a better job than Perform in restricting viewing from illigimate websites (such as And curb the sharing of log-ins (apparently a user could sign in as many as 25 friends)
That said, given the state of the economy and the enourmous pressure on national broadcasters, rights holders, in all sports will be looking at this ground-breaking experiment with much interest.

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