Media monopolies will dominate online broadcasting
Sport is now commercialising to take advantage of the online medium where broadcsaters, clubs and associations will capitalise upon exposure to a global audience that is ever increasing. The attraction of online broadcasting for the Premiership is particularly strong as internet connectivity becomes more widespread in China and India where merchandising campaigns and satellite broadcasting of live football have been successful.
In Ireland, Setanta Sports formed a partnership with Eircom to broadcast live coverage of the Rugby World Cup to its broadband customers. For Eircom, the coverage was part of an wider content and service package including music and online file storage that they offer to attract broadband customers. It was widely successful. Setanta Sports described online broadcasting as ‘very important' to its overall revenue, one which the expect to develop further.
The business model applied by Setanta Sports with Eircom benefitted both sides. Setanta provided the content and sports expertise, Eircom provided the technology and customer base – Eircom.net has a huge customer base through its dominance of telecommunications and internet connectivity in Ireland. This business model is likely to be replicated else where with traditional sports broadcasters maintaining a monopoly on internet broadcasting.
Dervilla Mullan, of Eircom Online told Village that “broadband broadcasting rights are usually sold as part of standard broadcasting deals [and] it is not easy for new entrants to gain access to the market”. Ms Mullan said that new entrants to online broadcasting are likely to be limited to providing niche content such as extreme sports. The website Cycling.tv is one such ‘channel' which attracts cycling enthusiasts to its coverage and playback of several cycling tournaments and other programmes.
Ms Mullen said: “A likely development is that the owners of the content, from the professional organisations, to the clubs will exercise a stronger control over their content rights”. The Internaional Rugby Board (IRB) made every match of the Rugby World Cup available on their own website as part of a subscription service, as well as offering it to online content providers. Illicit use of their material was heavily monitored and censored. Highlights of games broadcast on television that appeared on YouTube were quickly censored, but low-quality footage taken by supporters at the games was permitted to be broadcast.
Eircom has had a huge response to its online broadcasting. In addition to the Rugby World Cup, it provides football coverage of Premiership games and European football. Ms Mullen told Village that their online viewership is in the tens of thousands per month. Thirty per cent watch live games while 70 per cent of viewers watch replays or ‘On Demand' content – i.e. is not broadcast at a particular time, the program can be accessed at the viewers convenience. Declan O'Brien, also of Eircom, told Village that some of the most popular content is Poland's European football games.
Streaming content over the internet brings broadcasters information and possibilities that is not possible through traditional broadcasting means. Sky Digital does provide some interactivity, but nothing like the potential tof the internet.
Geotargetting will filter the advertising a viewer sees depending on the region from which they access a website. Subscribers who provide their interests and hobbies upon registration will be targeted by advertisers marketing suitable products.
Broadcasters can see exactly how many people viewed a match, how long they watched it and if they moved on to other programs within the online ‘channel'. Interactive forums and betting is possible, as is live online betting. Online betting has a massive audience already and the internet enables Joe Bloggs to become the bookie and ‘lay' bets on websites such as BetFair.com and live odds flicker wildly on PaddyPower.com depending on events during football matches and golf tournaments. The racing website At the Races.com is one of few websites that have integrated broadcasting with online betting. Mullen sees “huge potential in this area” and Setanta Sports has been looking into the possibility of integrating live betting into their broadcasts.