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Robert Weedon | Internet | Monday 5th October 2009

Looking through this website, one can probably already discern a slight dislike for sport, especially football. However, there's no denying that most of the population appear to have an interest in "the beautiful game" and that when England are playing, a large proportion of the nation are watching. Or rather they would, if they were able to. Other than the protected World Cup or Euro matches which have a clause which states they must be shown terrestrially, football rights always go to the highest bidder, usually big-hitters such as Sky Sports which are subscription-only.

The most interesting recent development to take place in the world of "pay-per-view" sport is the England v Ukraine World Cup qualifying match taking place on the 10th of October. For the first time, the match will not be shown on television in the UK. Instead, it will be available to watch on the internet for £5-£11 based on how early you book. This strikes me as being quite an innovation; after all a significant proportion of the population now use BBC iPlayer, YouTube, 4oD, etc on a regular basis, and this is really just a pay-per-view extension. I might hazzard to suggest that quite a few of the male audience might have already paid to see some other "exclusive content" on the internet as well.

With this in mind, paying a one-off fee to a company called "Perform" may not be such a struggle, and in many ways is more "democratic", in that it doesn't assume that the viewer already has cable or satellite equipment. All you really need is a computer with broadband. It will however have an impact on the viewing of the match - instead of huddling around the TV in a sitting room or down the pub, audiences will instead huddle around a computer. Will this inadvertantly be the step needed to blur the boundary between computer and television?

The reasons behind the decision to stream the match over the internet are not based on a wish to experiment with content delivery formats, but instead simple economics. Setanta, the original pay-per-view provider went bankrupt a few months ago, and, as England have already qualified for the World Cup, other TV channels were not prepared to pay the asking price for the second-hand rights to show the match.

I was also intrigued to read that the match will be streamed live in Odeon Cinemas. I rather like this idea - after all, a cinema is like a football terrace, and football is always better when watched with a group. I imagine the atmosphere in a cinema might be quite good. Not sure I'd want to go and see Creation in the same seats afterwards, but the concept itself seems quite sound - it almost harks back to the days when the cinema was also a news disseminator rather than simply a glorified DVD player. Indeed, now that cinema projectors are largely digital, dispensing the need for film prints entirely, I wonder if this could lead to a rennaissance in using cinemas for applications other than features films.

RW



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