With the world-cup just round the corner, we looked at the potential for online sports rights.

Our research shows that online rights are massively undervalued.

We strongly believe that many people would choose to watch football online rather than through a TV, however in the vast majority of cases there is no legitimate way of watching live online. This is a major market, that is being completely neglected. This is particularly the case in China, where watching full length programming online is the norm. Think of the potential for streaming EPL (English Premiership League) in China alone. Priced correctly, per stream and by subscription, there is a potential for millions of paying viewers. Integrate this with a community, live chat, peer to peer gaming and merchandise stores and the potential is even bigger.

The following release was sent to the press yesterday. If you have any views on this let us know!

With kick off of the football World Cup less than a month away, the latest research from the Global Web Index, a collaboration between online market research provider Lightspeed Research and Trendstream, demonstrates the massive potential for generating revenue from online sports rights.The survey of 16,000 internet users includes people in many of the countries who will be taking part in the tournament in South Africa including the USA, England, Mexico and South Korea.

Massive potential for streaming online

This year’s football World Cup will be the first where mass market online video streaming is a reality across the globe. Typically online rights are bundled with the TV deal as an ‘add on’, but the Global Web Index demonstrates that these rights are seriously undervalued, with FIFA potentially missing out on millions in revenue. The research shows there is already massive take-up of sports highlights and full length programming online (Chart 1). The Chinese lead the way where thanks to video platforms such as Youku and Tudou that carry full length programming as standard, 35% had watched full length programmers online in the last month and 27% had watched sports highlights. Other countries are not far behind.

Won’t pay, will pay

More crucially there is huge, untapped potential for monetizing streamed sport content. When asked what method of accessing live sports streams, there are very interesting differences in behaviour by country (Chart 2). Sports fans in India, South Korea, China, Mexico and Italy are most likely to choose to pay for their fix. Indians are most likely to pay to enjoy streamed sports without advertising (37%) followed by South Koreans (32%). In direct comparison, those living in the US and European markets in the study – prefer free access, with ads. However there is still a very large interest in paying, and one that if monetized could be far more lucrative than the advertising revenue. It is a similar picture for watching clips of sporting highlights.

“This research shows that online football rights for the 2010 World Cup are massively undervalued” said Tom Smith Director of Global Web Index. “There is proven appetite for streaming all sports online and more importantly, consumers are increasingly paying for it. There’s a whole new generation of younger consumers, as well as specific markets like China and South Korea where paying for sports online is quickly becoming the norm. This research shows that the days when online sports rights are thrown in as a sweetener with the TV rights may be about to be shown the red card. “

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