iFollow: one giant leap for football livestreaming
Internet livestreaming has been steadily growing in popularity over the past decade. In 2009, England's World Cup qualifier with Ukraine was broadcast exclusively via the Internet for a fee of £4.99 (£9.99 if bought less than three days prior to the game). Approximately 250,000 people paid to access the stream, leading to an estimated viewing figure in excess of 500,000.
According to the Telegraph, some viewers complained about streaming speed and lack of licensed premises screening the game.
However, the industry has progressed hugely in the intervening 8 years, with broadcasters such as BT Sport now streaming certain matches for free in full HD quality live on their website and YouTube.
In 2016, Wayne Rooney's testimonial became the first professional football match to be shown live on Facebook. And in the same year, the Champions League and Europa League Finals were broadcast live on YouTube.
As much as broadcasters like to deny it, mobile technology is slowly killing live television, and sports streaming piracy is a growing problem.
Earlier this year, the FA launched its biggest crackdown on piracy, targeting distributors of modified boxes and enabled devices. According to the Guardian, more than half of young people watch illegal streams, eschewing traditional subscription TV models in favour of web and mobile-based content.
Some will view iFollow as complete and utter acceptance of these facts.
The video streams are currently available for international fans only. But should they prove successful, could we eventually see those streams introduced to the UK? In the meantime, Tuesday night Beambacks in the South Stand should keep Latics fans sufficiently satiated.