Fans flock to the Web as local TVs offer no World Cup coverage

At the height of World Cup frenzy, fans dismayed by the unhappy ending regarding rights to broadcast live games found themselves some consolation. Given Hong Kong’s cheap and fast broadband connections, everyone seems to have a free (well, except for the monthly Internet subscription fees) access to live games on the web. And the choice

There is nothing to expect from free-to-air channels that feature playbacks of sports coverage and boring lifestyle shows. As exclusive provider of World Cup events Cable TV offers the services at a premium cost. But with local commentators whose conversations could lean towards betting instead of insightful analysis, the price to pay staying at home instead of the exciting crowd at pubs may not be worth it. Since we’re indoors anyway, switching off the television in favor of our Macs and PCs to hunt for free coverage is probably the other way to without leaving the house.

As a result, Hong Kong’s Internet traffic hit record high levels by the time England and Germany clashed on Sunday night. While nobody can prove that these connections were directly related to watching the match online, there is little to prove otherwise. As many as 120,000 households were possibly watching the streaming websites instead of paying for Cable TV’s broadcast. As the tournament approaches the critical stage, the all-time record of 138.5 gigabits per second set last Sunday is expected to be broken again. Think about how the Web can turn a round world flat.

Assuming that each streaming connection requires 300 kbps, the England-Germany game was witnessed by 16,700 more fans than previous games. And while the quality of reception pales in comparison with the paid service, fans don’t seem deterred. That’s because if a service is  shut down, it is not difficult to find an alternative website. So why pay whe you can get free? Or at least pay only for Internet service to surf the web and watch World Cup?

A consolation to fans from the battered local television channels is that four of the 64 World Cup matches will be shown on TVB and ATV. 

As American Pie’s Paul Finch exclaimed more than 10 years ago: God bless the Internet.