September 11, 2009
England qualifier could be shown pay-per-view on newspaper websites.
4pm, Friday 11th September 2009. Taylor Herring clients’ Kentaro and Perform are working on a landmark online content deal to broadcast a key world Cup game exclusively over the internet. Taylor Herring were appointed by the international football agency Kentaro and online content specialist Perform earlier this week.
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Credit: James Robinson, The Guardian
The England football team’s next World Cup qualifying game against the Ukraine could be streamed live on national newspapers’ websites on a pay-per-view basis, with a potential audience of more than 20 million internet users – the first time a match of such magnitude has been broadcast exclusively over the internet.
Kentaro, the sports rights company, which owns the rights to England’s away qualifier in the Ukraine on 10 October, is understood to have held talks with all UK national newspaper publishers except the Financial Times about the landmark online content deal.
Under the proposal put forward by Kentaro and Perform, which specialises in making sports and entertainment content available online, newspaper websites would be able to stream the live coverage free of charge. They would also receive a share of the revenue generated from the event.
Talks with newspaper groups are well advanced and a deal is likely to be announced next week. The rights holder is understood to have talked to Sun and Sunday Times publisher News International, Daily Mail & General Trust, Telegraph Media Group, Mirror Group Newspapers, Express Newspapers, Independent News & Media, and Guardian News & Media, which publishes MediaGuardian.co.uk.
Kentaro and Perform are aiming to build a “coalition” of websites to screen the game, which would also be available on specialist sports websites.
Simon Denyer, chief executive of Perform, pointed out that the biggest UK newspaper websites have a combined audience of around 24 million users. Specialist sports websites that may stream the match reach a further 20 million users and Kentaro is also in talks with a leading cinema chain about screening the game in theatres across the country.
Perform already supplies highlights packages of several sports, including cricket and football, to newspaper websites on behalf of its clients, who include the Football League and Cricket Australia.
The rights to the Ukraine game reverted to Kentaro when the previous owner, pay-TV broadcaster Setanta’s UK business, went into administration in June. Kentaro acquired the rights from the Ukranian FA.
Kentaro has had no offers from UK free to air or pay-TV broadcasters and has decided to seek the widest possible online audience.
“The strategy is to have around 10 big publishers with [sites] which have between 2 and 5 million unique users in the UK,” Denyer said.
He added that the game is being offered on a pay-per-view basis, partly because the company does not believe it is commercially viable to make it available free of charge online and generate a profit by selling advertising around the event.
Peter Silverstone, managing director of Kentaro UK, said that the highlights of the game could still be made available to TV companies even if a series of online deals are signed.
The Ukraine game is less significant that it might have been because England qualified for next year’s World Cup in South Africa on Wednesday night, when they beat Croatia 5-1 with two qualifying games to spare.
It is not clear how much viewers will be charged and the company will not comment on the pricing model. The experiment will be closely watched by industry observers, however, since newspapers rarely charge for online content.
There is currently an industry-wide debate about how much, if anything, readers might be prepared to pay for content on newspapers websites. Rupert Murdoch, the News Corporation chairman and chief executive, said last month that the group’s newspapers, including UK subsidiary News International’s Sun, Times, News of the World and Sunday Times, are examining how best to generate revenue from their online offerings.
If a deal is done and viewing figures for the Ukraine game are reasonable, it might demonstrate that there is an audience willing to pay for premium content online.
If so, the experiment is likely to be repeated in the future, according to Siverstone. “There is potentially the appetite to do this going forward,” he said.
He added that Germany, France and the Scandinavian countries also have big enough broadband networks to make screening games online a realistic possibility.
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