250,000 watch England online

LONDON - The first England international to be available only on the Internet attracted around 250,000 subscribers for a total estimated viewing figure of almost 500,000, organisers said on Sunday.

Saturday's World Cup qualifier, won 1-0 by Ukraine against an already-qualified England in Dnipropetrovsk, was not shown live on any UK TV networks, although the BBC made a late decision to buy and screen the highlights late on Saturday.

The rights for the match had originally been bought by Setanta but the company went into administration.

Kentaro, who bought the rights from the Ukraine Football Association, decided not to accept offers from other television companies and instead made the game available only online.

The firm charged almost five pounds ($8) for subscriptions taken out before Thursday, rising to 10 and then 12 pounds.

A number of national newspapers and Internet service providers (ISPs) also made the match available on their own websites while it was also screened in some cinemas.

"This pioneering broadcast has been a great success," Kentaro Chief Executive Philipp Grothe said in a statement.

"Not only have we delivered Britain's largest ever live pay-to-view internet sports audience but commercially the venture has proved itself as a viable model for future games.

"Technology has ignited a revolution in people's viewing habits and there is a new sports broadcast platform developing on the broadband enabled internet."

Andrew Croker, executive chairman of Kentaro's technical partner Perform, said: "This was an extremely successful and groundbreaking project.

"An innovative marketing approach particularly with national newspapers, betting and ISP affiliates meant that we were able to get this out to a broad audience and make it a huge success.

"Additionally, from a customer service, production and distribution point of view, we felt it went very smoothly."