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Crave Talk: BBC to stream live World Cup games

The BBC says it will stream live World Cup games and Wimbledon tennis matches via the Internet, but it won't all be plain sailing

Employers across the UK gasped a collective sigh of exasperation as the BBC announced its plans to broadcast all its World Cup games on the Internet. Viewers will be able to log on to the Web site and watch every World Cup 2006 game at the same time as they are shown live on BBC TV.

The service is likely to decrease the chances of employees calling in sick on the morning of crucial World Cup games. But it is also likely to increase the time they spend randomly hammering keyboard buttons, pretending to work and squinting at a browser window.

This could be the biggest productivity zapper since Ebaum's World. Emergency service co-ordinators will stop taking 999 calls; planes will fall from the skies; the Home Office will abandon the borders and illegal immigrants will flood our shores...

Crave welcomes the move, even if it means working society will implode for the next few weeks, and during Wimbledon, when the BBC will again Webcast matches. But one major concern is how Aunty's Web site will cope with the enormous influx of viewers desperate for a look at the games.

Many people accessing the BBC Web site after the epic FA Cup Final were turned away due to too many people logging on -- and that match wasn't even available to watch online.

The BBC's official response was that it was partly counting on large organisations blocking employee access to streaming media content. A spokesperson said: "We've improved our serving infrastructure for big events and we take lots of measures to ensure the stability of the Web site. We are reasonably confident about there being no server problems."

Interestingly, the BBC says you'll need to live in the UK and have a valid TV licence to legally view the games online, so if excrement hits the bandwidth fan it's not inconceivable that it'll start asking users to enter their licence details before giving them access.

This isn't the first time the BBC has attempted something like this. It also broadcast the FIFA Club World Championship final between Liverpool and Sao Paolo via the Web in late 2005. And in the US, Web content delivery firm Akamai helped the CBS network to successfully broadcast the hugely popular March Madness college basketball tournament via the Web, setting a record for simultaneous video streams served.

Whatever happens, we'll be looking at all the BBC's World Cup games in a determined effort to monitor its network performance. Random hammering of our keyboards and squinting at browser windows is a given. -RR