Online England game attracts 500,000

Monday, October 12 2009, 14:14 BST

By Andrew Laughlin,

Perform and Kentaro have revealed that around 500,000 people watched the England game online this weekend, with most viewers satisfied by the picture quality.

All action from England's World Cup qualifier against Ukraine on Saturday was broadcast exclusively online via pay-per-view for the first time.

Kentaro was left holding the rights after previous owner Setanta collapsed in August, with limited interest from other broadcasters as England have already qualified for the tournament in South Africa next year.

Digital agency Perform therefore agreed to screen coverage of the game on a dedicated website, along with a range of third-party sites. One-off subscription was available for up to 11.99.

According to the firm, around half a million people watched the game online, with nine in 10 viewers saying that they found the picture quality "satisfactory or better" in a post-match survey.

The poll also indicated that 87% of viewers felt that the game offered value for money and 89% stated that they would watch sport on the web again. The landmark broadcast has also stirred an interesting debate on Digital Spy's Broadcasting forum.

It is estimated that between 250,000 and 300,000 people paid between 4.99 and 11.99 to purchase the game. However, the use of third-party sites and the marketing tie-up with Bet365 - in which users could watch the game for free after creating and funding a betting account - means that accurately estimating exact revenue from the project is difficult.

In a statement, Perform chairman Andrew Croker described the online broadcast as an "extremely successful and ground-breaking" initiative.

He added: "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.

"Additionally, from a customer service, production and distribution point of view, we felt it went very smoothly."

Despite declining to confirm exact viewing figures for the game, Kentaro chief executive Philipp Grothe said that this approach to sports broadcasting would likely be replicated in future.

"Not only have we delivered Britain's largest ever live pay-to-view internet sports audience but commercially the venture has proved itself as a viable model for future games," he explained.

"Technology has ignited a revolution in people's viewing habits and there is a new sports broadcast platform developing on the broadband-enabled internet."

After having a 1m bid for the rights knocked back by Kentaro, the BBC agreed a late deal to show highlights of the match, which attracted a peak audience of 4.3m viewers.