Just as it does on television when a big event like the World Cup is being broadcast, the BBC currently dominates the online audience for sports. If anything, its position is even more secure on the Web – there’s no place for rival broadcaster ITV among the top ten sports sites or search terms, despite the fact that it shares the rights to the tournament. Indeed even Sky Sports does better, without rights to the action in Germany.
Among the gambling sites, online innovator Betfair – classified as a betting exchange rather than a bookmaker – is proving the biggest attraction, while its main high street rivals William Hill and Ladbrokes have both turned in comfortable performances so far.
The continued popularity of these sites depends largely on England’s progress through the tournament. The team’s victory over Ecuador in the second round at the weekend boosted the online audience for sports and gambling sites to over 3 million – its highest yet during the competition and a 50% rise over the past month. Of the latest surge, 1 million visited on the day of the match itself.
Other sports are starting to creep in – there’s no space for tennis yet but with the summer rains and Wimbledon appearing in tandem this week that should change.
But for the nation’s bookies these events are relatively insignificant. They’ll be holding out plenty of hope for the quarter-final game against Portugal on Saturday, for which Nielsen is predicting another 1 million-plus boost to figures.
When England finally leave Germany attention will turn to the start of the football season for the next big online push. Liverpool fans appear the keenest to find their club online at the moment. The sports sites will be hoping that rival fans will be just as keen come August 19.