250,000 fans pay to watch England’s Web-only match


The first England international to be available only on the internet attracted around 250,000 subscribers, with a total estimated viewing figure of almost 500,000, organisers said on Sunday. The World Cup qualifier, won 1-0 by Ukraine, was not shown live on any UK TV networks, although the BBC made a late decision to buy and screen the highlights late on Saturday. The rights for the match had originally been bought by Setanta but the company went into administration.


International football agency Kentaro had sold the broadcast rights of the fixture to Setanta, and after the collapse failed to agree rights offers with any of the more traditional broadcasters such as BBC, ITV and Five.

The organisers described the number of viewers as "close to half a million" but this includes figures for the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS), which screened the game free for troops, as well as those who watched it in cinemas and online.

Kentaro and media group Perform insisted there were "no technical issues" during the screening.

The firm charged almost £5 for subscriptions taken out before Thursday, rising to £10 and then £12 in the countdown to the match.

A number of national newspapers and internet service providers (ISPs) also made the match available on their own websites while it was also screened in some cinemas.

In a statement, Kentaro Chief Executive Philipp Grothe said: "This pioneering broadcast has been a great success. 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.

"Technology has ignited a revolution in people's viewing habits and there is a new sports broadcast platform developing on the broadband enabled internet." Andrew Croker, executive chairman of Kentaro's technical partner Perform, said: "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. "Additionally, from a customer service, production and distribution point of view, we felt it went very smoothly."


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