Media Lifeline: Online sports rights

From football to cricket, online offers another outlet for armchair sports fans.

March 2006: As England's elite football division, the Premier League, gears up to auction a new package of live rights for the period 2007-10, its chief executive, Richard Scudamore, reveals that packages will be offered on a "technologically neutral" basis for the first time. This, he suggests, opens up the possibility of some matches being streamed exclusively over the internet in the future.

September 2009: This doesn't immediately materialise - though there's noise from mobile operators looking for apps. In football, they pursue highlights packages, but in September 2009, Five TV offers iPhone users the chance to watch live Europa League matches for £3.99.

October 2009: The Ukraine v England Fifa World Cup qualifier becomes the UK's first competitive football match to be streamed exclusively over the internet. The cost is £4.99 in advance rising to £11.99 just before kick-off. Rights to the game had become available following the collapse of Setanta and mainstream broadcasters failing to make realistic bids - perhaps due to its 5.15pm kick-off.

January 2010: YouTube announces a deal to stream Indian Premier League cricket matches live in all territories across the globe apart from the US. The move surprises broadcasters around the world - some of whom have paid for TV rights, believing they have exclusive deals.

April 2010: Yahoo! gets in on the act, revealing it has acquired exclusive UK rights (previously held by Virgin Media) for internet distribution of Premier League highlights. It will offer five-minute edits of every single game - and the Yahoo! chief executive, Carol Bartz, says that "snack-sized" videos have worked well in the US, where the company has similar arrangements in place for basketball and ice hockey games.

Fast forward ...

August 2010: But now, like a wayward Wayne Rooney goal attempt, the shot really does hit the fan. As the new season gets under way, a group of the leading English clubs announce that they want the live internet rights of their games split out from any future auctions - and they intend to launch their own "digital season ticket" packages. BSkyB is furious, warning the clubs that they risk undermining the whole broadcast rights economy.

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