- 12 Oct 09, 11:54 GMT
Last week, I said the match could provide a significant test of the state of Broadband Britain - but in the event, poor online "attendance" meant that it wasn't quite as serious an examination as it might have been. But let's see what answers we got to the four questions I posed.
Question 1: Can our infrastructure take it?
The internet did not buckle on Saturday. Perhaps that was because there were fewer people looking to stream it than anticipated, but ISPs seemed to cope fine with the extra Saturday evening traffic. Virgin Media says its network saw a 9.9% average uplift in traffic between 5pm and 7pm compared to the previous Saturday - what it describes as "a mere blip on the radar".
Question 2: Are we fast enough?
Um, that depends. I watched my ten minutes using a fast cable connection and it worked pretty well. But how many people were put off even trying to log on because they tested their connections and found the experience unsatisfactory? And, whatever speed you have at home, football streamed to a laptop just doesn't provide the picture quality that you expect from today's television - in standard definition, let alone in HD.
Question 3: Will we pay?
Kentaro and Perform, the two businesses behind the online operation, talked beforehand of as many as a million people paying to stream this game. Now all they will say is that the total watching amounted to fewer than half a million, and that includes people who paid to see it in cinemas and the troops who saw it via the British Forces Broadcasting Service, which was allowed to screen it for free.
So we're not very clear as to how many people paid for the online experience - and how many of those shelled out £11.99, the match-day price. Not that many, at a guess - but more than might have done so if they'd known that the highlights would be shown on BBC One after a last-minute deal announced after the game was over.
Question 4: Will we find another way?
Oh, definitely. Sheer outrage at the idea that you'd have to pay for a mediocre viewing experience led many to seek another way. I've received reports of pubs plugging in laptops to projectors - but far more examples of "alternative" ways of finding the match online. From Chinese streams, to justin.tv, to Ustream, it seems that the world's peer-to-peer communities set about "sharing" this game with enthusiasm. I conducted an online vox pop, asking people how they'd watched the game and got back these answers:
"justin.tv - there were about 4 streams available."
"A site called myp2p aggregates the places it was being streamed. I used tvants to watch it (altho Chinese commentry)"
"Bet365 were showing it on their website for free, if you had an account."
"watched it via sopcast on www.myp2p.net"
"dodgy Albanian sports channel" in a pub on a polish TV feed with slightly out of synch r5 commentary over it"
"saw a link pasted on facebook, twas that easy!"
"several pubs in Bristol had laptops connected to big screens was free except for drinks"
"By pressing the red button. Japan v Scotland. Only one game I cared about. Sorry. That wasn't helpful was it?"
Er, no - but I think we get the picture - plenty of people who were interested in the England game found ways of avoiding the official and rather expensive route.
My conclusion? Our internet infrastructure may be just about ready for online football - but the audience certainly isn't - at least not if it has to pay for the pleasure.
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