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Victory For Ukraine … But Did Internet Pay TV Also Succeed?

by David Mercer | 10月 10, 2009

One of the biggest ever live Internet sports events passed off (for this viewer at least) without major technial hitches this evening as the World Cup qualifier between Ukraine and England was streamed live to hundreds of thousands of viewers in the UK. Each paid upwards of £4.99 to watch the game, which was not available through any other broadcast platform. For the record, Ukraine beat England 1-0 to keep alive their hopes of joining England at the World Cup Finals next year in South Africa. My own live internet TV experience was based on a ~3Mbps BT connnection, a WiFi link to the BT Homehub, using a HPElitebook 6930p laptop with an Intel Core2 Duo 2.4GHz processor and 2GB of RAM. After resolving an initial freezing problem by disabling hardware acceleration in the Flash player I was able to watch the entire broadcast in the high quality mode with no freezing or picture breaks. I would describe video quality as close to a poor quality standard definition live football broadcast on Sky, something which major UK broadcaster ITV is well known for. One way I gauge quality is to judge how easy it is to see the numbers on the back of the players’ shirts from a distant, half-pitch shot. In live Sky SD broadcasts this is relatively easy; in live broadcast ITV games it is almost impossible, and Perform’s internet broadcast was close to this level. But the overall experience was acceptable on a 15” PC screen. I imagine it would be less so for those who connected to a large screen TV. We will know more about the commercial success of the venture once Perform and Kantaro announce subscriber numbers, which they have promised to do. They have confirmed technically that live internet sports can be delivered to mass market audiences. But with each viewer paying a minimum of £4.99, the experience had to come as close to pay TV quality as possible. Even though our experience was good, we will watch with interest for any other reports of dissatisfaction from paying customers. While internet broadcast technology is becoming more reliable, it is still by no means clear that pay-per-view sports is a viable business model, on any platform. NTL famously failed to make a business from pay-per-view football in the UK, although many believe they vastly overpaid for rights in the first place. The internet may be proven technically as a delivery platform, but the questions around willingness to pay, appropriate price points, and the profitability of this platform remain very much unanswered. Twitter: twitter.com/DavidMercer_SA Client Reading: Online Video: YouTube vs. Hulu - Let the Battle Commence! Add to Technorati Favorites
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