In My Opinion: Stewart Weir: The Record’s streaming of Poland versus Scotland

“DID you see the game last night?” is the age-old retort among individuals arguing a difference of opinion around a football match.

Those calling the Daily Record football hotline this morning, however, might not have heard that particular question, for one very good reason: whether you saw the game or not was entirely down to the Record (and its sister title, The Mirror) having exclusive rights in this country to last night’s friendly international between Poland and Scotland.

It did take a while for the ‘penny to drop’ that the Daily Record’s portal was the only place you could view this pre-Euro qualifier warm-up. The phrase ‘meaningless friendly’ may be argued and denied by football folk. But the fact that no major broadcaster was interested in showing this runabout says everything about its importance.

At this point, you have to admire the Record’s vision: the chance to pick up the rights would enable them to attract a new readership – sorry, viewership. But such ventures are fraught with unforeseen problems, albeit the kind that someone, somewhere, with ‘expert’ or ‘head of’ status should have spotted a mile out.

While everything in print is black and white, wiring up TV or video output, even when following the basic instruction, has the potential of going horribly wrong. A case of red to red, green to green, blew to bits…

The Record’s output started brightly enough, but quickly keeled over as the cry of ‘this thing works’ whizzed around ‘social media land’.

My money would be on a basic overload: demand outstripping server space/bandwidth. It isn’t the first time it has happened in Scotland. But you can’t advertise and crank up interest in your live and exclusive output, then be shocked when people come in to watch.

The problem was rectified, but not before the Daily Record had been ridiculed and teased rotten on Twitter and other social media platforms. ‘Sorry’ messages being retweeted are fine, but how many lost interest to stick with the game or even hit the refresh button again for the umpteenth time?

Part of me was thinking ‘there, but…’. It is never nice when your baby pukes up, in public. Keeping a ‘server farm’ in reserve costs money, and not always what you want to be paying for when budgets are tight. But it doesn’t look good when it ends up with people watching a frozen screen.

And the screen did eventually burst into life.

Of course, I can be terribly smug about this faux pas as it never happened to me in any of the ventures I was involved in. Your ‘webcast’ collapsing? Huh. I never suffered anything that trivial. It was the company around me that went bang.

And it is for that reason that newspapers are (as I’ve written before) now playing at being TV stations. Lost sales and advertising means they have to drum up a new set of users (or ‘readers’ for those of a certain age).

The demand for new, innovative content for their online operations means newspapers are dipping more than toes into the world of sport and event broadcasting, although you do get the feeling it is still being done on a shoestring.

The big test will come when, and if, there is an event or game where a bidding process has to be undertaken. Give me a nudge when the ‘Daily’ or ‘Scottish’ anything pay for that content ahead of mainstream broadcasters.

Back to the match and the second-half appeared problem0free, both online and in Warsaw. The fact Scott Brown’s winning goal was captured for posterity ultimately made the Record’s break from normal output a worthwhile exercise.

Next question, to quote a music hall chant, “When will we see your likes again?” It’s fine saying you broadcast a football match. But when is the next one likely to be?

But oh, how many in the newspaper industry heaped praise upon the Daily Record for this bold move? Quite a few, to be honest, although direct competitors appeared somewhat silent. Hardly an unexpected response on either count.

Forgetting the latter, I got the feeling those who gushed over the Record’s live streaming did so because similar projects are being discussed within their offices.

I counted at least three people whose own newspapers were approached around four years ago with a joint-venture opportunity to broadcast live sport, or at worst, be media partners in such an opening. All refused.

Okay, boxing, snooker and golf and, wait for it, curling (the darling of the sporting world, these days) might not have been ‘their bag'; similarly, with exclusive in-depth interviews or magazine-type output. But it was still spurned, one exec leaving a meeting I attended, with the words, “I still don’t see why that would be of interest to us.”

Stewart Weir is proprietor of weirmediaworks, specialising in online content, digital, PR and media consultancy. He is a former chief sportswriter with the Scottish Mirror and is a regular broadcaster on talkSPORT, STV and BBC Radio Scotland.