In England, football has for the longest time been available on television only. In fact, since the widespread adoption of tv, the England football team's matches have all - without exception - been available on television. They've been available either on terrestrial tv (free to air tv) stations like the BBC or ITV, or they've been available to watch on satellite (subscription) tv stations like Sky Sports, or Setanta.
But now that's all set to change. For the first time ever this Saturday, an England match will only be available to watch online, via a live feed over the internet. And, naturally, those football fans who want to watch England vs Ukraine free, will have to pay for the opportunity.
So how did this all come about? Well, it was a move borne of necessity, rather than any particular desire to embark on a bold experiment. Kentaro, the company that owns the rights to the Ukraine vs England match had initially sold them to Setanta, who would have broadcast them on their subscription tv channel. But then Setanta ran out of money, and went to the great companies graveyard in the sky. Kentaro tried to sell the rights to other broadcasters, but nobody was interested in paying the asking price for a match that was essentially a meaningless friendly (England have won every single one of their group matches to date in this World Cup Qualifying campaign and have already qualified for the World Cup that will be held in South Africa next summer).
Faced with the prospect of making absolutely no money at all from their previously valuable asset, Kentaro went with the only option left to them - sell access to the match directly to the fans and viewers. They've gone into partnership with Perform, a company that specialises in broadcasting (or rather, webcasting) sports events over the internet. The result is a live pay per view webcast of this weekend's England vs Ukraine game.
If they play their cards right, Kentaro and Perform stand to make a lot of money from the match. They've set prices ranging from Â£4.99 for early adopters, to Â£11.99 for those who book on the day. Even after capping the maximum number of viewers at 1 million, they still stand to bring in something between Â£5 million and Â£12 million for this event, which is probably far more than they could have made selling the rights to a single tv broadcaster.
There are also options to watch the match for free - but these depend on buying access to a bookmaking site, and option which will also see a hefty profit for Kentaro.