Thursday, 20 June 2013

Do you, can you, watch your sport online? [update]

EVERYONE’S BEEN A-TWITTER over the last few days about the breaking of the Sky “monopoly,” and the need for English soccer fans to get themselves a fast enough connection to watch their favourite sport online—either via their computer, tablet, smartphone, or through an internet-savvy TV or set-top box—or through any TV they can hook up to their computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Much gnashing of teeth about the problems. But you’d think that would give folk enough choice in how they watch their sport.

And also help to demonstrate that as long as regulatory barriers to entry remain in abeyance, technology has a way of helping demonstrate that one man’s “natural monopoly” is another man’s opportunity to provide service in pursuit of profit.

Still, soccer fans who are regular customers of Sky are a little septic that Sky’s dominance in the sporting marketplace is being broken, and fearful how it will work watching 380 games a year of their sport online.

Well, let me reassure them.  I’ve been watching AFL online for nearly three years now, and after a few early teething troubles when the AFL’s international service was being set up, it’s just fine.  This year, you can watch all 170 games (plus pre-season, press conferences and highlights) through either an iPad app, an Android app, or through their AFL TV website.  Mostly, I use my computer to watch my main game (like those involving the Geelong Cats) on the big screen with the office data projector, a few mates, and a well-stocked fridge.  And then for the lesser games (like those involving the Collingwood scum), I watch it at home by wiring up either phone, iPad or computer to the telly.

It works fine. So panic not.

NOW, OBVIOUSLY IT DEPENDS on the speed and quality of your internet connection.  And already folk are leaping up and down using this as yet another stick with which to beat the government for moving at such a glacial pace in “rolling out” super-fast broadband across the country. “The country needs it,” say the spruikers of super-fast broadband.

But in fact “the country,” in the form of you and I and the folk down the road and everyone else who constitutes what economists call real demand are saying quite the opposite. Far from being desperate to bridge the digital divide, consumers are responding to the ultra-fast broadband already “rolled out” by government not by eagerly joining up to it, but with the sound of a loud and reverberant raspberry. Turns out

nearly two years after its rollout, the government's $1.35 billion ultra-fast broadband initiative (UFB) has the dubious honour of rapidly becoming both a white elephant and a lame duck. Just 5,133 out of a possible 171,886 users have signed up to connect.

So maybe, just maybe, we’ve seen demonstrated in that distinct lack of enthusiasm for the billion-dollar broadband boondoggle that NZers are already, by their own estimation, being served as well as they’re satisfied with by the present speed provided by  their ISPs—and that the supposedly “unfulfilled need” for this ultra-fast broadband was not an example of “market failure” at all, but just another example of a political football being turned into a rent-seeking boondoogle.

UPDATE: The good folk at Sommet Sports remind me that you can get every AFL game live on your box on the Sommet Sports Channel (accessible free at Channel 114 on your telly).

And if  for some unknown godforsaken reason you want soccer, then you’ve got soccer live and free right there on your box. You can watch Bundesliga, N Power Championship League, Football League, Argentinean League, Europa League, Capital Cup, England Home Internationals, Community Shield, Chelsea TV (Sommet will buy the rights to another Premier League TV which will enable them to broadcast 2 delayed EPL games per week), Scottish FA Cup,  German FA Cup, and Chinese FA Cup.

Isn’t that more than enough?


  1. When you are in a highly regulated industry like telecommunications, it makes perfect sense to shift costs to the government - if you spend first they might regulate and turn your expected profit on network investment into a loss!
    The government ruined the cost/benefit calculation for capital investment in telecommunications, so another example of their inept interference shouldn't be any surprise.
    Once the Crown Fibre rollout is complete Voda and Telecom might have got 4G LTE to major cities at such a penetration level that the whole exercise was a waste!

  2. I, too, have been watching international sport for years on the internet and find my common-or-garden ADSL connection just fine most of the time (with fewer interruptions than Sky's all-too-frequent rain fade). But I'm looking forward to being able to watch 20 streaming movies or sports games simultaneously over the taxpayer-funded Ultrafast Broadband (as the early publicity for it claimed).

    I expect we'll hear calls from the usual bleeters for the Gummint to legislate to protect every New Zealander's god-given right to watch free-to-air English Football League.

  3. The most hilarious thing about our misguided efforts in rolling out ultrafast broadband is that it's just amplifying the oversubscription problem, which is exactly why people aren't buying these bullshit plans. It's easy to cook the speed test results by having you test against local servers, but you're still going to end up buffering choppy videos on youtube because these idiots don't realize that it's the international link that matters. I doubt anyone here uses Steam, but given the time they wasted getting NZ ISPs to mirror the content locally, just imagine what a nightmare it would be for Hulu and Netflix to renegotiate their contracts with the studios and networks for our sake. It would be wasted on us, we wouldn't be able to use them even if we wanted to.

  4. Very few people would have picked the death of printed newspapers a few years ago, or bank branches, or a myriad of other things which have been taken over by the worldwide web.

    I can browse the internet on my 40" TV and its like a having a big screen computer in the living room. Sky is finished and so is Freeview (stupid name..... Broadcast 'TV' will soon have gone the way of analogue CRTs.

    Dave Mann

    (p.s. Unfortunately most of the content will still be crap, though.)

  5. Brennan: The government ruined the cost/benefit calculation for capital investment in telecommunications

    Exactly. I would say ADSL speed increases and plans were moving along nicely, until the UFB announcement. Than basically for years nothing happened.

    If John Key hadn't done a thing, I'm sure VSDL would have been far more widespread.

    moe: I doubt anyone here uses Steam

    I suppose you're not really into gaming? Everyone uses Steam. Fantastic download speeds over ADSL.

    Netflix? Easy to get access too. Obviously we're paying more for it, like we're paying for everything else, but works already perfectly.

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