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Internet Television & The Championship


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#1 ShotgunGold

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 01:48 AM

A debate which generally gets discussed on here is what to do with the Championship. What really is its purpose? And as it is no longer a league with promotion, what role can it play under the overwhelming domination of Super League?

I genuinely think that rugby league should aim for two league systems, and that Super League and the RFL should attempt to pull the Championship closer to the standard of Super League both on and off the field. This would create a larger gap between the Championship and Championship One, but I think it would be better for the game as a whole. The Championship should rightfully be its own distinctive competition, with competitive matches, fully professional players, modern stadia and goals that are worth achieving. The transition from National League One to Championship was much needed, however it is not enough as I feel that a complete overhaul, a 1995 Super League style revolution is what is needed.

Clubs like Leigh, Batley, Barrow, Whitehaven, Keighley and Featherstone Rovers are responsible for getting rugby league to where it is today the fourth biggest sport in a nation of 60 million people that surely should never be forgotten. They ooze heritage, history and most importantly a community spirit. It saddens me a little to think that in a way it feels like the Super League clubs who did make it have kind of forgotten the ones who need a little help in this modern era of big cities, rich backers and brand awareness. Its sad too that in regards to the Challenge Cup fans dont see the attraction of a smaller club attempting to put one over on a franchised club. A club that merely a few decades ago was an equal, but now one which seems to be playing a completely different ball game. But the thing which I think is most saddening is the way that these clubs, which I personally feel dont have a hope in hell, are still knocking on Super Leagues door asking to come in. Widnes have a chance, but lets be realistic I dont see any of the other heartland teams ever being allowed entry. However I think the reason theyre still doing this is because they are not happy with the league they are in, not because they realistically see Super League as an option.

This must be put right; otherwise globalisation will wreck these clubs, surrendering them to amateurism. Some might think I am being overly pessimistic, but look how quickly the gap has got in all sports in the last fifteen years; well the trend will certainly continue. When you can watch Manchester United on television, why bother travelling to see Stockport County? When you can watch Leeds Rhinos on television, why bother travelling to see Hunslet Hawks?

To dramatically improve a leagues status quickly, a television deal is needed. Just look at the football Championship in 2004 or of course Super League in 1995. Unfortunately in its current state the Championship will not get one. But rugby league has always been one for innovation; if they dont come to you, then you must come to them.

And this is where internet television comes into play, because I honestly think that the medium is now strong enough that it could be a key feature for a new-look Championship. But how would it work

How would the concept be funded and what do fans get?

Firstly a yearly or monthly subscription service could be offered to all rugby league fans and in return they get access to a select number of live matches every week. They also get access to full matches of all the other games in the league as well as highlights packages. It would be a database system, so old matches would be left on there for viewing whenever, and downloads of matches can be offered for portable devices like iPod. Heck there could even be European Cup matches or AMNRL matches if there is market for them. Secondly video advertisements and banner advertisements would be used on the website to make more money. I think there are two options with this, firstly it can be a rugby league only website which I think could definitely generate a sustainable level of advertisement, or for maximum advertisement money rugby league could pool together with other sporting leagues in football, rugby union and cricket to create a video network featuring videos from various British (worldwide?) leagues which would obviously increase advertisement revenue. The only comparison I can make is BigPondTV which I have seen hosts videos of various Aussie sports and JustinTV which is a highly popular live streaming website, which is a bit like YouTube but live, however it does offer a lot of sport feeds from across the globe.

Can internet television really help sustain a whole league?

The general trend of internet television, videos, live streaming is going up at huge rates. I would not be shocked if by 2025 more people are watching tv programmes on their laptops then on the actual television. Here are some facts I found
    47 million sport videos were watched online in the UK in January 2010, an increase of 47% from July 2009.

    Worldwide time spend online on sports sites is up 34% from Feb 2009 to Feb 2010. It is estimated to rise by the same amount by Feb 2011.

    U.S. Internet users viewed a record 14.3 billion online videos during December 2007, representing an increase of 13 percent versus the previous month.

    Internet advertisement revenue reached $6.1 bln in 2008, but by 2013 its expected to reach $147 bln worldwide.

Will this not have an effect on attendences?

My idea is that cheaper monthly/yearly subscriptions would be offered to season tickets/members of the actual Championship clubs which would then enforce a live blackout of clubs home, and possibly away, matches. For example as a Halifax season ticket holder, buying a cheaper subscription through the club would mean that I will not be able to view live streams of Halifax matches but of course would be able to watch/download the match a day or two later. With this blackout in place (it is a concept used across the United States in NFL, MLB, NBA etc) I dont think attendances will fall.

Could this persuade a television broadcaster to buy rights?

I suppose it could. At the end of the day in this current situation no television broadcaster is going to look at the Championship matches on Sky, a network already full of Super League fans, and think yes this would be viable on our channel. Its just not going to happen. If this turns out to be a success then there is no reason why a television network would not be more interested now that the new product is laid out in front of them as a success. They dont like taking risks remember!

How would the matches look?

This is the hardest question to answer, because its all about predicting numbers and then budgeting. In the Premier League, Sky generally use 24 cameras, Super League I reckon is substantially less but Ive seen FA Cup matches featuring amateur teams live on the BBC using just three or four cameras and it looked fine. Commentary can be done, interviews as well. HD and 3D? Obviously not. Half-time match reaction and chat probably not.

How would a new Championship look?

I wanted to focus on the internet tv idea, which would be a key part of a new Championship, but obviously not all of it. The other parts deserve new threads of their own! Personally I would licence a ten team league with the strongest teams like Leigh, Halifax, Widnes definitely in there. Stadiums like Leigh Sporting Village deserve to be shown to all rugby league fans! Maybe cutting the Super League down to 12 would help. Maybe Toulouse would get French users involved. But yes this thread is mainly about the internet tv aspect.

I know some of you might see this as pie in the sky, but I really can see this idea being successful and really helping out Championship rugby. The medium is growing so fast, and I think the sport has such a dedicated fan base who will happily pay to watch a match whatever the league is. I think in 10 years time many sports will be online, so why not dive in first. It is obviously a gamble, good ideas always are!, but if it brings in money for Championship and provides fans with more entertainment then surely its worth trying. Anyway whatcha think?!


#2 Segovia Carpet

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 08:11 AM

Excellent post but far too radical for the RFL. I'm not sure but I think it might be tricky for the clubs not in SL to break away without penalties. Really have felt for some time that there is a market elsewhere which is not exploited (Eurosport instead of Tractor Racing), Bravo (as well as Darts), the new Channel showing NRL etc - suggest you speak to Marketing at RFL - come on get cracking.

#3 Amber Avenger

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 08:16 AM

Wow - that's a lot to take in.

However, my reply will be a lot shorter I think. Basically the amount you take in from subscription would not even cover the costs of starting up something like this off. Websites like Big Pond/Justin (which where RL is concerned isn't always legal!) only work because they are using footage that is broadcast for tv anyway - that footage would still be filmed even if those websites didn't exist. Setting up something like this for internet only - number of cameras, people to work those cameras, travel costs etc cost a lot of money - you can of course cut corners on stuff like this but then people aren't willing to pay as much if you do that. Catch 22 before you even start! The amount it would cost to set something like this up you'd need to get a broadcast partner on board to finance/sponsor it and then you might as well go for a TV deal.

You are right that the video internet market is strong for the viewer, but not so for the people who run it. Even really big companies make barely nothing from internet banner ads etc - certainly not enough to top up subs revenue. The stats are impressive for the clips thing, but they aren't entirely relevant as you are comparing clips on youtube (stuff like Usain Bolt's world record, worlds best goal) to streaming an live match in it's entirety. You are confusing two different things, as I bet the stats for people watching streaming sport are way down compared to the clips because it's available in better quality on tv. If you heard Rooney scored a belter at the weekend though and missed it on Sky go onto YouTube etc.

The idea is nice, I'm not saying it isn't, but in reality it would never work due to the sheer cost involved. Plus I think you underestimate the way the internet actually works at the moment - people go to justin because they don't want to pay for live streaming sports!

Edited by Amber Avenger, 10 August 2010 - 08:17 AM.

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#4 tonyXIII

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 08:01 PM

Actually, I go to Justin for a number of reasons. Firstly, Sky is supposedly illegal here. It isn't, you can get it, but you can't get all of it - one of the Astra satellites is aimed very tightly at the UK and it's the one that shows BBC and other Free-To-Air stuff - though you can get all the Sky Sports channels (I think I may be out of date, though). Secondly, I actually don't like what Sky has done to our game. I'm in a minority, I know, but I enjoyed TGG more as it was twenty years ago. Thirdly, I won't pay for Justin because the quality is not good enough. Either my PC is too slow or my bandwidth is too small or both. Either way, I have to pay money with no guarantee of a cure. (Yes, I am a tightarse and proud of it!) Fourthly, I am an anarchist! I don't go round throwing bombs, I am a philosophical anarchist. I believe we should be free of all control except our own sense of morality. And that includes the internet and satellite TV. Power to the People! (Dear God! No!) Power to nobody, freedom for all!

I'll re-think this when I'm sober. Hic! ohmy.gif biggrin.gif biggrin.gif biggrin.gif

edit: Re the OP. I hope the RFL have got an eye on this because I think this is the way TV will go. On demand via the internet. How you pay for it is the biggest problem the broadcasters face at the moment.

Edited by tonyXIII, 10 August 2010 - 08:03 PM.

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#5 Tommy The C5t

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 08:22 PM

QUOTE (tonyXIII @ Aug 10 2010, 09:01 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Actually, I go to Justin for a number of reasons. Firstly, Sky is supposedly illegal here. It isn't, you can get it, but you can't get all of it - one of the Astra satellites is aimed very tightly at the UK and it's the one that shows BBC and other Free-To-Air stuff - though you can get all the Sky Sports channels (I think I may be out of date, though). Secondly, I actually don't like what Sky has done to our game. I'm in a minority, I know, but I enjoyed TGG more as it was twenty years ago. Thirdly, I won't pay for Justin because the quality is not good enough. Either my PC is too slow or my bandwidth is too small or both. Either way, I have to pay money with no guarantee of a cure. (Yes, I am a tightarse and proud of it!) Fourthly, I am an anarchist! I don't go round throwing bombs, I am a philosophical anarchist. I believe we should be free of all control except our own sense of morality. And that includes the internet and satellite TV. Power to the People! (Dear God! No!) Power to nobody, freedom for all!

I'll re-think this when I'm sober. Hic! ohmy.gif biggrin.gif biggrin.gif biggrin.gif

edit: Re the OP. I hope the RFL have got an eye on this because I think this is the way TV will go. On demand via the internet. How you pay for it is the biggest problem the broadcasters face at the moment.


It has already happend Tony in the case of hit tv shows like Dr Who where the overnights were as low as 6 million but then when the on demand and I player viewing figures were added this was adding a further 2 million viewers to each episode and in the case of the first and last two episodes three/four million.



#6 Wendall

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 08:30 PM

QUOTE (Tommy The C5t @ Aug 10 2010, 09:22 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
It has already happend Tony in the case of hit tv shows like Dr Who where the overnights were as low as 6 million but then when the on demand and I player viewing figures were added this was adding a further 2 million viewers to each episode and in the case of the first and last two episodes three/four million.


The only problem I have with watching TV on'tinternet is the poor quality of the picture and the fact I have to watch it on my monitor as opposed to big HD Tv in my front room.



#7 Amber Avenger

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Posted 11 August 2010 - 08:04 AM

QUOTE (Tommy The C5t @ Aug 10 2010, 09:22 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
It has already happend Tony in the case of hit tv shows like Dr Who where the overnights were as low as 6 million but then when the on demand and I player viewing figures were added this was adding a further 2 million viewers to each episode and in the case of the first and last two episodes three/four million.


Which is fine for drama which essentially doesn't go out of date - iplayer is a catch-up service. Sport has it's greatest impact when live. Although the BBC does have live streaming of all of its channels available, they said recently uptake of people watching live online wasn't as great as they expected.
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#8 Methven Hornet

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Posted 11 August 2010 - 06:16 PM

It is an interesting concept but do the figures stack up? Have you tried doing even the most basic feasibility study based upon the likely levels of people willing to watch, how much they would be willing to pay, what the costs would be?

The problem is that the RFL is a governing body, not an internet entrepreneur, so it would have to go into partnership with someone that had the necessary skills. Why would that partner want to work with the lower reaches of the RFL - wouldn't soccer or union be much more of an attractive prospect to them? If the concept is workable why aren't those sports out there doing it now?
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#9 ShotgunGold

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Posted 14 August 2010 - 11:22 PM

Thanks for your replies. I'd like to clear up a few things...

QUOTE (Amber Avenger @ Aug 10 2010, 09:16 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
The stats are impressive for the clips thing, but they aren't entirely relevant as you are comparing clips on youtube (stuff like Usain Bolt's world record, worlds best goal) to streaming an live match in it's entirety. You are confusing two different things, as I bet the stats for people watching streaming sport are way down compared to the clips because it's available in better quality on tv. If you heard Rooney scored a belter at the weekend though and missed it on Sky go onto YouTube etc.


Your right stats 1 and 3 are for sports clips and not just full videos. Obviously it is very hard to find stats on just full matches, it was hard enough me tracking down these figures let alone others! However I do believe that the viewer figures for both live streaming and payed viewing of sports matches are rapidly growing, this is particularly true in the United States, Japan and the rest of Europe. Which leads me onto this...

QUOTE (Methven Hornet @ Aug 11 2010, 07:16 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
If the concept is workable why aren't those sports out there doing it now?


Many sports are allowing viewers to buy online subscriptions. The difference is obviously that if this were to go ahead, the Championship would be the first sporting league in the world to be solely online. The NFL are as expected leading the way on this technology, I understand individual clubs sell the matches to customers on an individual and "Season Ticket" basis. I read in a basketball magazine in Canada called "Dime Magazine" that one NBA club had begun seperately filming their matches and selling on the internet, cutting out the middle man and making a profit. My friend in Germany recently told me that he spends 27 euros a month (around 22) for access to all 10 Premier League matches. Super League sells (or certainly did sell) their matches to anyone not living in UK, Ireland, France, USA, Australia, NZ and certain Arabian countries for a fee, I'm not sure how much it was though. I know these are big comparisons, big US leagues against the small Championship, and of course like Methven pointed these sports see television first, internet second; however ideas have got to filter down!

QUOTE (Methven Hornet @ Aug 11 2010, 07:16 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
It is an interesting concept but do the figures stack up? Have you tried doing even the most basic feasibility study based upon the likely levels of people willing to watch, how much they would be willing to pay, what the costs would be?

The problem is that the RFL is a governing body, not an internet entrepreneur, so it would have to go into partnership with someone that had the necessary skills. Why would that partner want to work with the lower reaches of the RFL - wouldn't soccer or union be much more of an attractive prospect to them? If the concept is workable why aren't those sports out there doing it now?


No I haven't done any studies or questionnaires because I'm just a rugby league fan, and not somebody with actual power in the game!! It's an idea but not something I could personally ever initiate.

This is obviously the major factor though and I would like to see the RFL put in a few questions related to the subject on a few questionnaires (the RFL do do regular questionnaires don't they?!) across Championship and Super League fans. It's worth asking a few quesitons even if they never get anywhere.

However I do think that you are thinking too much about how televised matches work, and how an internet match would work. It is much much much more expensive to televise something on TV then to stream something across the internet. Remember this is not a full time internet sports channel, it is simply the matches being shown with some being shown live. Many clubs already film their matches, making and selling highlights DVD.

Now I understand again that these are of quite poor quality (partly depending on whose behind the camera) but I don't think the leap is actually that big. A fund to buy say twelve decent cameras which could be co-operatively owned by all Championship clubs and some transported to live matches: one Thur, one Sat, one Sun whilst some others at non-live matches which would get uploaded. Other equipment as well needs to be bought but once it is then that's it. Yes you would need to hire professional cameramen, this would be the biggest cost in the long term as it's ongoing too.

Commentary, well everyone has their own opinion on commentators but again I don't think this would actually be that expensive, infact a true fan of our game with a few necessary skills might be much better than some of the local radio commentary I've heard of RL matches (BBC London being the worst). I think I remember hearing about a TotalRL member doing a bit of commentary once, so again I don't see it as a huge expensive problem.

Oh and you certainly don't need necessary skills for the "internet" part. Anyone under the age of 25 knows how to edit, upload and even stream a video file/feed. For something so simple it surprised me how it took so long for the RFL and related sports bodies to really grasp the idea of video content on the internet. And the best thing is once you've bought the domain and the server, that's it, so apart from paying someone to spend a few minutes a day uploading content, the rest is free.

Over the next few days I will certainly do my best to get an estimate of the costs of such a project, so bare with me!

Finally a quote - "a club is only as big as the league it plays in".

Super League sets the standard high with trips to Old Trafford, opening ceremonies, a nice trophy, some stunning grounds, video access (Sky matches) for people across the world, and England team to get into, and of course talented full time players. The franchising criteria is trying to pull this standard even higher, Leeds Hull and Wigan are all trying jump higher all wanting to grow, enhance and of course dominate.

The Championship on the other hand doesn't have the ambition and doesn't set the standard high for it's clubs. How are Widnes and Leigh supposed to grow (even prepare for SL) when there is such a gulf in standards. There is no video access, the trophy looks well...., three points for a win creates big gaps in the table, the Grand Final is being played at the HJ wheras I'd like to see it at Elland Road or Goodison Park or Bramall Lane- sure they may not be sell-outs but I still think more people would come and it would be great for the players to play there, the SL has Millenium Magic so why can't the Championship have a few themed rounds or double headers. And this internet concept would get matches online so that fans of any club would be able to see the league as a whole - every team in every match, something which is a must for a modern sporting league. I just think a few targets and a few standards could do wonders for a league with some terrific clubs, some good stadia and a lot of potential.

Ok I've wrote enough now laugh.gif smile.gif

Edited by ShotgunGold, 14 August 2010 - 11:48 PM.