In a shocking turn of events, the IIHF has turned around and stopped the free live broadcasts of the World Championships. The decision, is according to an IIHF statement, based on some fans in the geoblocked countries bypassing the blocking mechanism to watch the games, rather than use services provided by TV rights holders. The games will still be shown for free via YouTube, but with a 30 minute delay to the service, which negates the point of watching the games.
The World Championships have been a total farce from start to finish and this is the last nail in the coffin. The free YouTube streams were a step forwards in exposing the sport and the sponsors of the games to a whole new audience, whilst extending the service to those who wanted to follow their nation play, but lived in a country where there was no TV deal in place. The release by IIHF cites that “today’s step was taken to prevail illegal attempts to access the streaming countries that were geoblocked due to exclusive contracts.” I’m sorry, but bypassing a geoblock is not illegal. It may not be ethical, but it is by no stretch of imagination illegal. It’s a complete disgrace to the IIHF that they have blocked a service that was enjoyed by the fans, regardless of the fact whether some users bypassed the blocking mechanisms in place. Furthermore, I can’t believe that an organisation like the IIHF is so out of touch with the internet that they thought that a geoblock would work. What the IIHF has failed to realise is that as long as something is broadcast on to the web, whether by an “authorised” TV provider, the feed will ultimately end up in the Internet where users like myself can watch it for free. So my question is why block it on that premise? Surely the best way to tackle the issue of illegal streams is to do what the IIHF did in the first place, by offering a free, high quality stream of the games.
The official statement read: Bruno Marty, Excecutive Director Wintersports, said: “We deeply regret that we have to take this step, in particular for all the ice hockey followers out there who just want to enjoy the games online on YouTube. However, we currently see no other option to protect the existing media rights agreements with our broadcast partners, as some so called fans decided not to play fair and to illegally surpass existing copyright and geoblocking mechanism.”
I have a feeling that the geoblocking has nothing to do with the fact the games were pulled. I have a feeling that broadcasters in countries where the rights have switched hands (I’m looking at Finland here) have kicked up a fuss, because the live streams took away customers from the pay for channels. What makes the IIHF think that the users who have been watching the games via YouTube will suddenly flock to a TV provider and pay an arm and a leg for a viewing pack?
What’s surprising even further is that the IIHF has not even brought in an option it has hosted previous years and allow users to buy a country pass or a tournament pass to watch the games. That way users could at least still watch, what the IIHF calls legal streams, and make a profit out of it on the side. Delaying the games by 30 minutes just negates the point of watching a game! What is the point when you have an app for a phone that tells you the score. Wake the hell up IIHF.
Like I said these world championships have been a total farce from the start, with the ticket prices and price slashes and free ticket giveaways. All the while Rene Fasel and the organisers have talked about a great brand they have to protect, but this decision sees the IIHF take the brand and wipe its ass with it!
It’s completely puzzling how the KHL can show the entire regular season via YouTube, including playoffs, and have no trouble with it? How can the IIHF find this context so hard and difficult?
I will conclude this post on this picture as it is now more pertinent than ever (With thanks to Esko Seppanen and Urheilulehti). My parting thoughts would be to curse at the IIHF, but what’s the point?