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England Football: Pay-Per-View Analysis

Perform provide the Ukraine v England match feed, featuring former England Manager Sven Goran-Eriksson

Perform provide the Ukraine v England match feed, featuring former England Manager Sven Goran-Eriksson

I watched the first web-only distribution of an England football match, the 2010 World Cup Qualifier hosted by Ukraine.  Ukraine won the match 1-0, I’m confident you can find a competent match summary elsewhere.

However, the real story is the fact that the game was only available via the internet; it was not screened on terrestrial television, via commercial satellite broadcasters or any other dodgy continental method.  Perform Media was the only distributor of the match which is the “biggest ever pay-per-view event in the UK”.

Defining success is difficult.

Success for Kentaro, the Swiss agency that held the rights is easy to define: did it profit from the initiative?  Undoubtedly, that answer will be yes; clearly, the largest pay-per-view (PPV) event in the UK will, almost by definition, deliver a profitable adventure, considering the target was the £900,000 offered by the BBC.  With estimates of more than 250,000 subscribers at £11.99 a pop, they look well on target to clear this amount.

But as others have already noted, the key factor to look at is not necessarily the distribution method – which, let’s face it, has been around for a while – but whether or not this is a legitimate channel for future delivery.

Assessing Quality

I purchased the feed early, paying the minimum £4.99.  The purchasing process was bang easy, entered my details once, clicked ‘submit’ and had an e-mail confirmation straight away.

On the day, at the specified time, I logged in with my details and was able to access the feed immediately, with no disruption or delay.  Truth be told, it was the easiest PPV process I’d ever encountered.

I conclude, technically, it was a rock solid offering which was delivered perfectly.  My congratulations to the numerous people who undoubtedly made that happen.  I know, intimately, these things do not just ‘occur’ by accident.

It’s at this point I need to separate the technical delivery from the content delivery.

Really? Is this the best on offer?

Unlike many Brits, I don’t have any problem at all with Sven Goran-Eriksson.  In fact, I (still) believe he is a solid manager and has an intuition for the game.  However ….

As your primary analyst on the “largest PPV event in the UK”, I think he comes up miles short.

I’ll even look past his unctuous, stuttering commentary; it’s the massive own goals which cost him his place in the pantheon of quality pundits:

  • His inability to offer any meaningful insight into the psyche of the players and managers on the day of the match;
  • His tenuous grasp of the latest news coming from the England camp;
  • His outrageous checking of his mobile phone in the middle of the live broadcast
  • And,  most egregiously, his inexplicable silence when asked to ‘walk us through’ the build up to key moments in the game during the post-match analysis

Argh!  You should have had ME in the studio, paying ME to do post-game …

The in-game commentators were excellent, wisely choosing to use veteran colour men, including one of my favourites, David Pleat.  My harshest criticism – which really strikes at the heart of the matter – is the chosen delivery format.

High Definition please!

It’s 2009.  I have excellent computer hardware and software at my disposal and, thanks to Virgin Media, a pulsating 50MB connection rifling through my flat. There is no issue of any access problems on this end.

Yet, even considering all this advanced technical wizardry, I’m still held back by the fact that the match is being distributed in ‘low fidelity’ video format.

I paid a premium to watch this match; clearly, the distributor is making its money back (and a lot more); why was this match not broadcast in HD?  At least as an option?

All of the sky-is-falling stories written prior to the match spoke of the infrastructure “melting under the strain”.  Please. The UK is (officially) the home to the world’s greatest financial centre, 1 million people tuning in at once to a 2-hour broadcast is hardly enough to bring such a centre to its knees.

In fact, the danger is the opposite; such a population demands quality for the premium it pays for goods and services in this nation. Anything less than high definition is an insult and, frankly, an embarrassment to the distributor.

Conclusion

I think this was a successful test. I would be willing to purchase another game using this same service, albeit with certain qualifications.  For example, as an American, I would like to watch the USA team play, an event which is not shown on my available Virgin Media package.  I would be very happy to pay to watch it, in HD, over the internet.

But the bigger point here is that any online distribution should be part of a larger footprint of accessing sport; web delivery should be just one option, for those who choose it.

Terrestrial should remain as a key distribution channel, if for no other reason than it unites those hardy folk who collect in pubs and other venues around the nation which are not fortunate to have blistering broadband and high-quality equipment.  Yes, I’m aware that some Odeon cinemas were showing the match, but this is hardly the same.

Maybe one day, but certainly not today … and not even tomorrow.

It’s a shame England lost on the pitch; I’m not convinced it lost in the larger sense of finding a new outlet for enjoying the world’s best sport.

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  1. tonkritul
    2 March, 2010 at 03:36

    THX for this.

    Your site is very interesting.

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