Thirty-five days to go, and earlier this week, Jeeves posted a question in the comments regarding live broadband coverage of matches at this year's World Cup. This Financial Times article by Andrew Baxter (subscription req'd) looks at the case of Brazil's Globo media empire, which will stream the entire tournament over the Internet to its Brazilian customers for about $5 apiece:
The initiative will be as much a test of the underlying technology as it will of the country's emerging broadband market. If something goes wrong, Infront Sports & Media, the Switzerland-based company handling sales of the tournament's broadcast rights and those for other events of Fifa, football's world governing body, could come down on Mr Silveira and his colleagues with all the crunching finality of a Roberto Carlos tackle.
Broadcasting sport online has a complexity that goes a long way beyond finding the money to satisfy rights-holders and serve a sport-hungry audience. For its World Cup initiative Globo.com has to ensure that only Brazilian residents can access the matches for fear of infringing other broadcasters' rights and falling out with Infront.
The key here is technology to limit the broadband content to one region, thus avoiding conflicts over rights. At this World Cup, Baxter writes, Infront has sold internet video or highlights packages in nearly 100 countries, all of them limited to a specific territory, after a 2002 World Cup in which FIFA's website was the sole supplier of broadband coverage, and even that was limited to four-minute highlight packages available no sooner than five hours after matches:
As the acceptance of its technology increases, Quova hopes more sports will exploit it. In the US National Football League, the existing five-year agreement between franchise owners and broadcasters prohibits any sort of internet broadcasting, says Mr Jackson. But the contract is up for renewal this summer, and there are active negotiations to include the internet next time, he says.
Ultimately, web geolocation may play a more positive role in web broadcasting than restricting an audience. "This whole thing has a half-life of three years," says Bob Bowman, chief executive at MLB.com, the internet broadcaster of Major League Baseball. "In the end the best content publishers will realise it doesn't matter where the customer is - if they want to watch a game they'll watch a game." Nor would content publishers worry how people view so long as overall ad revenues are maintained, he says.
The inference I read here is that by the next World Cup, in 2010, web broadcasts will be available pretty much everywhere. But for now, it depends where you are. Jeeves, maybe you should move to Brazil for a month.