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A survey finds that football fans are not streaming football matches online in anything like the numbers that broadcasters had hoped for, with just 2% saying they are likely to stream games online. 

Football clubs and broadcasters were hoping for additional revenue from internet streaming, but the online products on offer so far have little appeal for football fans and I can see why. 

According to an SMG Insight / YouGov survey of 2,000 UK adults, only 2% of those not going to games plan to watch matches online, with the rest preferring to watch at home, or else head for the pub or a friend's house. 

While the Premier League hopes mobile streaming will provide a lift for the market, I think the reason many don't watch streaming football is due to a combination of poor quality coverage and a lack of appealing payment options. 

The World Cup showed the potential market for online football streaming, with 5m people watching matches online during the tournament.

The BBC set a new online streaming record during the England v Slovenia game (thanks to the 3pm Friday scheduling) of 800,000 concurrent live streams, which was 5.5% of the TV audience for the game. 

Stats like this show that the potential audience is there, but the product needs to be made more appealing. 

Poor quality coverage

The problem with a lot of football streaming I have seen so far is the quality of the streaming, and ITV's recent World Cup coverage is a prime example of this. 

While ITV introduced lots of interactive features like Twitter feeds and viewer polls, it failed to provide reliable coverage of the games it showed. Picture quality was poor when viewed in anything other than the small screen view, while the coverage was jerky and buffered constantly. 

This screen was all too familiar, and in one game, thanks to the jerky coverage, I actually ended up ten minutes behind the TV coverage. 

If a match is important to football fans, they simply will not want to risk their enjoyment being spoilt by this kind of problem, so unless quality coverage can be guaranteed, then online streaming services will not attract more viewers. 

It can be done though, as the BBC showed with good picture quality when viewed in full screen, and glitch-free coverage of matches.  

Confusing payment / subscription options

Another problem holding back live streaming are the various subscription options. Since many people will watch online when other options are unavailable; they are at work, don't have a Sky subscription where they are etc, there need to be more options for casual viewers. 

It's OK if you are a Sky Sports subscriber already, but someone who wants to watch the occasional match online will not want to pay £35 per month for an online package, especially if they are already paying for Virgin Media or BT Vision. 

There are plenty of football supporters already paying up to £5 per match for illegal streaming of one-off matches who would be happy to pay this, and possibly a bit more, in return for better quality official coverage of matches.

Graham Charlton

Published 24 August, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (9)

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kevin mcdougall

kevin mcdougall, Development Manager at Linen House

Early days yet. Once the coverage has been sorted out I’m sure this will take off especially when the 'in game betting' companies get more involved and really push their agenda.

about 6 years ago

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Sean Walsh

As you mention at the end, why pay so much when you can get a better quality of stream with more diversity of matches illegally?

Even then you can get high quality streams for free if you know where to look.

about 6 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi Sean, I'm not sure about the picture quality of the illegal sites, though the last time I saw one it was pretty poor, but I'd pay a bit more not to hand over my payment details and expose my computer to potentially dodgy sites.. 

about 6 years ago

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Sean Walsh

Hi Graham,

Yeah don't get me wrong, if the price is right I'd pay for the proper stuff - I regularly complain that football league TV rights hinders clubs from streaming their matches all season long but money is to be made I guess.

Yeah, the quality isn't great generally but if you put a bit of time into it (purely for educational reasons of course!) you'd be amazed at how many sites/forums out there that spend their weekend sourcing the net for free streams, you can usually always find something with a 500kbs bitrate and pretty high quality - its just a matter of effort.

S

about 6 years ago

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Adi

Whenever I've watched a stream of an Everton game the viewing numbers have always been in the tens of thousands, and as has been mentioned the quality of these bootlegged streams is not very good. The problem would seem to be clubs getting greedy and overcharging for this kind of service. There is certainly demand as anyone that follows games on discussion forums will agree. It is almost guaranteed that there will be several threads asking for a bootlegged stream somewhere online.

about 6 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Sean - I think it would be great to allow clubs to stream games, especially away games that only a few thousand fans get to watch. If you know where I can watch Newcastle away at Wolves on Saturday, let me know;) 

about 6 years ago

Andrew Steel

Andrew Steel, Business Development Manager at Objective Associates Limited

This isn't just a problem football is facing - it's a general problem for all online streaming broadcasts.

The current infrastructure is seriously lacking in this country and is one of the biggest things holding the development of IPTV back. Something that is giving the TSB and BBC a lot of headaches.

Once infrastructure improves, quality will improve and when the quality improves to a stable level, more people will use it. Until then it will continue to struggle.

about 6 years ago

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Joe Cogan, Director at Gro Digital

This is just an infrastructure issue. Obviously live world cup games will be watched on tv till the connectivity catches up. However there are examples of football highlights being hugely popular online and within an entirely legal framework. Look at Premier League highlights views for Feb last season -

http://www.performgroup.co.uk/news_articles/view/78

And these are just increasing month by month. Live still works on TV. For everything else there's mobile, web, iphone, etc

almost 6 years ago

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British Football

Another disadvantage of football streaming is the big delay comparing with terrestrial or satellite Football Matches Broadcasting. This delay could be up to 20 - 30 seconds or more. No football gambler will place bets during the game with such big delay.

almost 6 years ago

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