A few days ago I was chatting to a mate about watching the England game on Saturday evening and he told me it was only possible by paying £5 and streaming it through the web. Yesterday, I saw that this very topic had made the front page of NMA and since these two topics are very close to my heart I thought I’d put my two pennies worth in!
Football, in fact all sports, are a big passion of mine as is the web and all things digital. So on seeing this news I was initially put out; I have Sky Sports for all the live sport and felt it's just another Setanta/ESPN sellout to get more money out of the everyday sports fan. But having thought about this a little more, I think there are some interesting long term implications.
Having read the article by Suzanne Bearne and Will Cooper in NMA's 8th October addition I can see that there is some divided opinion on the topic. All the big newspapers are scrambling to be part of content deals as are operators such as Orange. It is clear that content is now and will always remain one of the most valuable commodities on the web, the trick is how this can be monetised to maximise the revenue of the broadcaster. This can be clearly seen by the amount broadcasters have invested in their online viewing capabilities and players - BBC, Channel 4 and Sky all have a hefty investment in the online TV on-demand offering.
In the arrangement for the England vs Ukraine game it seems there are a couple of potential flaws, firstly is the UK population ready for this shift in viewing behaviour? Yes, plenty of teenagers and technically savvy individuals watch TV online but does the average football fan that would normally watch football on Sky or down the pub? Is the technical infrastructure and broadband network in the UK up to it? Personally, I have some trouble streaming a big video from YouTube and I simply wouldn’t be prepared to experience latency and buffering while England are about to score a goal!
The most critical barrier to this type of arrangement becoming a regular occurrence is the stranglehold the big broadcasters on the rights of the big sporting events. You just have to look at the ridiculous amounts of profit BSkyB make or what the BBC is prepared to invest in the rights to big events to know that we are far from seeing this type of thing happen regularly.
The most likely occurrence is that we will see much more online viewing of sports events and general TV content but it will be the big broadcasters that determine how and when this happens. Being a regular user of the Windows 7 media centre it is clear that we are not far away from true TV on-demand delivered by a home media centre PC connected to the TV. This new viewing behaviour will inherently reduce advertising opportunities and most likely limit advertisers to bumpers, programme sponsorship and product placement deals. But that's a good thing right... I mean who really likes being interrupted from the programme they're really enjoying to have regular 4 minute ad breaks?