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?