Half million watch England online qualifier

By Julian Clover
October 11, 2009 16.00 UK

Close to half a million fans watched England lose 1-0 in the Ukraine over the internet, making the controversial transmission Britain’s largest online pay-per-view event.

There was no live coverage of the match on British television and only after the final whistle was blown on Saturday evening was it revealed that the BBC had secured a highlights package that was shown later in the evening.

Fans paid between £4.99 (€5.37) and £11.99 to Perform, accessing the transmission either directly through the internet broadcaster’s website, or partners that included The Sun, The Times, News of the World, The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Express, The Daily Star, The Independent, Virgin Media and Orange. Twelve cinemas within the Odeon cinema chain also screened the match live, as did BFBS Television.

“This was an extremely successful and groundbreaking project. An innovative marketing approach particularly with national newspapers, betting and ISP affiliates meant that we were able to get this out to a broad audience and make it a huge success,” said Perform executive chairman Andrew Croker. “Additionally, from a customer service, production and distribution point of view, we felt it went very smoothly.”

According to a survey conducted by Perform immediately after the game, an average of 87% felt the picture quality was satisfactory or better and 93% were satisfied with the customer support. In contrast, some observers said it was difficult to read the numbers on the backs of the player’s shirts, though this is an offence of which some regular broadcasters can be guilty.

Setanta Sports had originally acquired the rights to the match from the international football agency Kentaro, who represented the Football Association. After the collapse of Setanta, Kentaro resold the rights to Perform.