Online-only England match watched by 500,000

The online-only broadcast of England’s 1-0 defeat by Ukraine on Saturday has been heralded as a success despite reports only 250,000 subscribers paid to watch.

Kentaro, the company which held the game’s rights, and Perform, which bought them, said almost 500,000 watched the game on the web and at 12 Odeon cinemas. Viewers could also watch on white-label players provided by partners including The Sun, Orange, Mail Online and Virgin Media, as well as free if they signed up to Bet365.

But newspaper reports have estimated only 250,000 to 300,000 people actually paid to watch the match, considerably below the millions expected to have watched it if it had been on TV. The BBC’s highlights programme, agreed in a last-minute deal with Kentaro, was watched by a maximum of 4.3m viewers.

Nevertheless, Andrew Croker, Perform executive chairman, said it was a significant accomplishment for sport broadcasting. “This was an extremely successful and groundbreaking project,” he said. “An innovative marketing approach particularly with national newspapers, betting and ISP affiliates meant we were able to get this out to a broad audience and make it a huge success.”

Peter Silverstone, Kentaro UK MD, said, “We have been encouraged by the level of debate this has stimulated among the sport industry.”

The deal to broadcast online was made following the collapse of Setanta, which had previously held the rights, in the summer.

Saturday’s result made no difference to England’s World Cup campaign with the team having already qualified for next year’s finals.

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