On Wednesday, there was only one TV network in the UK where you could watch the 2010 World Cup qualifying match against Croatia and that was Setanta Sports. Well, at least legally that is.
While only four million people in the UK had access to Setanta’s pay channels yesterday, the remaining England football supporters were on a mission yesterday to find ways to listen to or watch the live match. Their choices were (a) listening to the match commentary on BBC Radio Five Live, (b) skipping the match entirely and watching the highlights later on Freeview, or (c) scouring the internet in the hopes of finding some site that had the game.
While the last option would seem fruitless to many, those England supporters who visited one site Wednesday would have been pleasantly surprised. That site is Justin.tv, a video streaming site that features hundreds of computer users from around the world connected to webcams.
Living in the United States, my only two legal choices of watching the game live were (1) paying $25 to my local cable company to watch the match on pay-per-view, or (2) finding a pub locally that carried the Setanta pub channel and paying a cover charge of $20 to get in. So instead of paying the dosh, I decided to head to Justin.tv to see if the match was available online for free.
Not only was it online for free, but there were more than six separate streams to choose from. One of the users had connected his computer to a Middle East TV signal. While the quality of the TV signal was strong with little to no buffering, the commentary in Arabic was difficult to listen to after a while. No problem on Justin.tv. I simply clicked on the next stream until I found one that satisfied me.
The one that I did settle on was someone’s stream of Setanta Sports UK. The picture quality was better than my television and the audio levels were perfect as the commentary team of Jon Champion and Chris Waddle did well, although I half wished I was listening to the commentary from the international feed, which featured Martin Tyler and Robbie Earle.
I wasn’t alone in enjoying the England against Croatia feed. There were 30,819 other viewers on Justin.tv watching the same feed, and that was just one of the feeds that Justin.tv carried.
It’s not just the Croatia against England match that Justin.tv was featuring either. When I checked, there were more than 100 different streams showing soccer alone. With so many World Cup qualifying matches on TV, there were streams focused on all sorts of different games that afternoon.
Justin.tv features daily streams of soccer games from around the world. At this rate, the website will become the one-stop-shop for soccer fans seeking streams of matches that are unavailable on free-to-air TV stations or priced at ridiculous rates.
While the Premier League has been busy trying to remove video highlights from YouTube and cracking down on P2P providers, the league is quickly losing that battle. Justin.tv, meanwhile, will be a whole new battle as they try to protect the TV rights of companies who have paid large amounts of money to show games live.
Instead of trying to fight the unending and fruitless battle of preventing people from showing live games or highlights online, the Premier League needs to develop its own online product with state-of-the-art streaming quality at an affordable subscription rate. Instead of watching illegal streams that are poor quality, football fans – I believe – would flock to a site where they can watch matches legally with excellent picture quality and behind-the-scenes video content that they can only find from the Premier League. Again, the key is that this needs to be provided at an affordable price.
What do you think of the proposed idea, and what have been your experiences watching streams from Justin.tv? Share your feedback below by clicking the comments link.