Dear Lifehacker, I just wondered if you'd investigated how to get the English Premier League on the cheap using the net without having to sign up to an expensive Foxtel package. Be great if you could offer some advice. Thanks, Des
Picture by Wally Gobetz
For users who have become addicted to scheduling their own television programming via downloads and not paying for anything, sport remains very much the fly in the ointment. While there are dedicated viewers who will record matches and then share them via BitTorrent and other P2P systems, that's no good for a proper sports fan: live is the only way to go. There are dedicated live tweeters for many major sporting events and you can often catch live radio broadcasts, but watching online is a tricky and often impossible task. As you've noted, in many cases pay TV looks like the only viable option.
Highly popular sporting events in Australia are theoretically protected by the anti-siphoning list, which is meant to ensure they'll always be available on a free-to-air TV network. In practice, the operation of the list is pretty controversial, and the rules are due to change before the end of the year. But even that's unlikely to help with a sport like EPL, which is firmly tied into pay television and absolutely unlikely to end up being declared of national cultural significance.
In a world where TV viewers are proving harder and harder to attract, major sporting events remain one of the few guaranteed audience pullers. The top-rated events in Australia this year have been the AFL and NRL grand finals. That makes the TV rights to those games valuable, and sporting bodies have very little reason to dilute that value by streaming them. The endless cat-and-mouse games played by online streaming sites like Hulu to try and block out-of-country viewers demonstrate a pretty obvious rule: once something is online, someone clever will work out a way to access it for nothing.
The simplest solution for most sports bodies is not to risk that in the first place. As such, there's virtually zero incentive for major sporting events to invest in actually broadcasting online, even if they spend a lot of money on building sites to encourage and inform their fan communities.
There are occasional exceptions. For instance, Melbourne Cup races today are being streamed via BigPond (though that doesn't work outside Australia). In cricket, Indian Premier League matches are streamed on YouTube. In both cases, there's a risk that overwhelming demand might make actual viewing difficult. But in any case, there's not much sign of that happening routinely with anything that qualifies as a major sport in its country of origin.
That said, I'm sure the more sports-crazed of our readers (a category I can't pretend to belong in) may have some additional tricks up their sleeve when it comes to trying to access streaming sports in general and the EPL in particular, and they'll be happy to share them in the comments.
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