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.