Despite my initial indignant bluster, with much projectile monocle-shedding and rustling of the Times, I dutifully paid for the online feed of the Ukraine-England match. The £4.99 buy-by-Wednesday special offer rate, of course… I’m both tight-fisted and slightly sceptical about how well this internet-only thing is going to work. Are there going to be a million people across the UK, peering at badly pixellated, jittery images with out-of-sync sound?
There’s no stopping the march of technology, and for the most part, I have no wish to do so. I’m quite intrigued about how football coverage could be expanded (and made more competitive) with the addition of online-only services. But, as so often seems to happen, we’re being urged to jump excitedly on a new bandwagon which is still lacking a couple of wheels.
Unless broadband coverage and speed become more consistent, I suspect a lot of people will quickly lose faith in the concept of internet TV, especially for football, where the multiple intricacies of movement (more so than the simple back-and-forth of tennis, for example) demand a certain level of picture quality.
And then there’s the fact that a significant number of people (especially older people) have no internet access. For them, an online-only football match has the same expensive exclusivity as one broadcast on Sky, with the additional barrier of technological complexity. Plenty of people of my parents’ generation will have no intention of buying a computer and learning how to use it, simply to be able to get a few extra TV programmes. Until “the Internet” stops being a wholly separate utility, and becomes part of the general data stream entering a house (without the need for complex, expensive and specialised equipment) this situation isn’t going to change.