British network operators botched mobile offerings introduced for last summer’s soccer World Cup, 3GSM attendees heard Wednesday in Barcelona. The tournament is among the world’s most-watched and most lucrative sporting events, but Paul Nerger of mobile analysis firm Argogroup said the networks failed to deliver. Nerger: “Most of the operators in the UK provided a text alert service so that you would know your team had scored; most of them offered the ability to actually see live video. What we found was that, in most cases, most of the operators were very, very slow at delivering those notifications. In some cases, notifications of goals scores might have been anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours late. For a sports fan, that’s generally not acceptable. Ironically enough, if you had gone to the Fifa site and subscribed to their notification service, they often actually arrived sooner, even though they might have used the same network operator to deliver them.”
He added: “Videos were pay-for fees but to actually see what the goal looked like through shrinking videos, the loss was often below the threshold where you could actually see the ball. Video, if you look at sports, is one of the things that is going to make content services compelling – it’s one of the things that a lot of people are invested in. [But] if you don’t deliver that, you don’t have a positive user experience. When you are charging money for that experience, it better work or they are not going to come back.”
Despite industry optimism about emerging prospects for delivering video to handsets, Nerger’s counterparts on a panel about sporting mobile content echoed his views. When I asked them, each expressed a high degree of negativity about that medium, mobile soccer coverage and mobile offerings for this fall’s upcoming Rugby World Cup in France, instead advocating downloadable wallpapers and ringtones.
“The one sport we lose money on is football,” said Pete Russell, CEO of sport-centric English mobile content provider Player One, for example. “Football has never worked for us from a quality perspective, it’s not great. Cricket works because there’s a multitude of camera angles.” Yet the mobisode rights for cricket’s recent Ashes series proved not to be lucrative for Russell thanks to England’s 5-0 whitewash at the hands of Australia.
Even Darach Deeha, CEO of Servecast, which delivers streaming video to sporting stakeholders including Manchester United, was at pains to suggest “long-play” sports are better suited to mobile devices than one-offs because fans can consume content in a drip-feed fashion.