Will online streaming change the way we watch sports?

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Let’s revisit a topic that we addressed several months ago: illicit online streaming of television broadcasts, namely sports. This is different from going to the Pirate Bay a few hours after a show airs and downloading a file. We’re talking about, hey, the big game’s on, let’s go to justin.tv or ustream to watch it.

The Guardian brings this up today in a quick little piece on justin.tv. It seems the Barclays Premier League (England’s top professional football league) doesn’t like it when Little Tommy streams games online for all to see for free. This is a violation of copyright, the League claim, which it is, but no one really seems to care. Every day games are streamed on these sites (check justin.tv and ustream today around 2:45 EST for plenty of UEFA Champions League streams) and people from all around the world—the accompanying chat rooms are filled with different languages—watch, apparently not concerned that they’re doing so illegally.

People watch these streams for any number of reasons. One is that the game they want to see isn’t broadcast in your their market. That happens to me all the time—I watched a stream of the Real Madrid-BATE game yesterday because ESPN2 decided to carry the Manchester United-Villrreal match despite the fact that their group had all but been decided, ensuring that both teams play kick-about for 90 minutes. (Random fact: Villarreal is pronounced “vila real” and not “veeya real,” as the town officially changed the pronunciation a few years ago.) Another reason is that, um, people no longer have the luxury of shelling out money for premium cable or a trip to the pub to watch a game. Eating is more important than watching Zlatan Ibrahimović scuff another shot.

The leagues would be wise not to sue the pants of their fans, though, following the music industry into an early grave. Nor should they bother playing whack-a-stream since these streams pop up every second. When one goes away, another replaces it, just like the Vietcong.

That said, never bet on Soho Square to do the right, or smart thing, Fabio Capello’s appointment aside.

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