Wake up, TV networks

The demand for on-demand sports is too great to ignore. Now do something about it.

The Financial Times on Monday wrote an interesting piece about Web streaming during UEFA Euro 2004, the venerated soccer tournament that drives Europeans bonkers every four years. The FT reported that the official Web site served up more than 500 million page views and more then 50 terabytes of data during the three-week event. England's nail-biting match against home team Portugal alone streamed 2.9 gigabits of data per second. (England lost in penalty kicks after David Beckham launched a dud over the woodwork).

TV networks need to get into the game. Sports nuts want their sports when they want it.

From my experience with live streaming video, the experience keeps getting better. When Yahoo powered the 2002 World Cup's Web site, it included a subscription video feature that ran highlights from the day's matches. I forked over $19.95, just for the hell of it, and was sorely disappointed. I couldn't see the ball, because it blended into the patchwork visual blemishes and static.

Then there's MLB Advanced Media, which I raved about in my first blog entry. Good idea for fantasy baseball dorks such as myself, but the novelty has run its course. Staring into my laptop was fun while it lasted, but nowadays, I choose a remote, not a mouse.

The FT report said this year's Euro 2004 may see the end of a standalone streaming service on its Web site. Not because there's no demand, but rather because hunger for live, readily accessible event programming will shift the feature into a new generation of TVs and set-top boxes.

I don't blame Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks owner and founder of HDNet, for ranting in his blog about being shut out of watching the U.S.-Argentina match live on NBC. Be patient, Mark. If you build it, it will come.

 

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