Peter Sharkey explores the possibility of watching your favourite sport on the web thanks to broadband...
In brilliant Alpine sunshine, a colourfully-clad figure wearing a crash helmet and a pair of skis plunges 30 feet from an exposed mountain rock onto soft, powdery snow.
He accelerates downwards, leaping from towering rocky outcrops, as a helicopterbased camera captures his every move.
The disturbed snow tumbles like water from subtly hidden ledges as the figure continues his downward descent at incredible speed.
Eventually, France's Sebastien Michaud reaches the foot of the mountain and careers through what looks like one half of a child's bouncy castle; it's the finish line and Michaud has won the O'Neill Downhill Extreme.
Did you miss this on television? Me too, mainly because it was never broadcast either on mainstream terrestrial or satellite, but I'm watching this spectacular sporting event on my computer screen using a broadband connection.
It allows me to pause, rewind, view scheduled programmes or scan the highlights of other extreme events, of which the Cape Epic Tour looks the most appropriately named.
There is plenty of other content from which to choose: base jumping, cliff diving and windsurfing, sports which rarely, if ever, benefit from terrestrial television coverage.
The website in question, www.High.tv, is attempting to exploit a rather large gap in the market for niche sports' content and feels that the internet is the best way in which this can be achieved.
Followers of extreme, or 'adrenalin' sports appreciate that logging on to the internet is a much cheaper method of staying abreast of their leisure-time pursuits than tuning in to pay-TV.
Most find the immediacy of access - they're not bound by broadcaster's schedules - particularly attractive.
The growth in web-based sports channels can be attributed to two principal factors: relatively low start-up costs and the presence of an enthusiastic number of followers who feel their sport is shunned by mainstream broadcasters.
Nor is this growth limited to what many may feel are comparatively obscure sports: there are websites providing video highlights and occasionally live coverage of a whole range of sports, from boxing to tennis, cycling to nonleague football.
'Webcasting' is most popular of all among minority sports, ostensibly because of the most basic economic considerations.
It is difficult for most sports to justify the £2 million a year expense associated with operating and filling a dedicated cable or satellite channel, whereas setting up an internet broadcast channel costs around £200,000 a year.
Some more established channels, such as High.tv, recoup a fair proportion of this cost from advertisers, while others charge modest sums to access content.
Log onto www.revs.tv, for example, a web-based channel devoted to motorsport, broadcasting everything from Formula One to track-racing highlights, and you're given a choice of viewing format.
There are full length, payper-view DVDs to watch on your computer screen or to buy online.
The cost allows the user to dip in and out when it's convenient without missing any action.
With revs.tv, £5 buys 500 of the site's credits: a onehour streamed video costs an average of 100 credits or £1.
But the development of online broadcasting has encountered a number of problems, most of which have arisen due to its popularity.
Niche-sports followers may appreciate the extent and depth of content available online, but ironically, limits to current technology means that picture quality can vary enormously.
Quarter-screen pictures are sharp and well-defined, but if users switch to full screen, the pictures can become blurred, depending upon the speed of the internet connection.
Similarly, picture quality also suffers if the broadband network becomes crowded with too many online viewers, leading some experts to suggest that successful streaming will require internet speeds well in excess of those currently available and affordable.
Nevertheless, the potential commercial impact of broadband broadcasting on many sports could be enormous; in some instances, it could easily change the way in which they derive the bulk of their income.
A recent report by accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers identified the growing importance of internet broadcasting to even mainstream sports, suggesting that in the United States for example, online deals will ensure that sportsrights fees rise from £700 million in 2004 to £1.15 billion by 2009 as specialist sites grow in popularity.
At present, live online coverage of niche sporting events is rare, mainly because the content providers have yet to establish just how much their viewers are prepared to pay.
Web-based television is a fledgling market where audience figures are currently measured in the tens of thousands.
One of the most popular sites, cycling.tv, attracts around 75,000 viewers in a good month, while many others achieve less than half that figure during the same period.
Broadband webcasting of sport clearly has phenomenal growth potential, although in the short term, its commercial viability will be determined by the the number of fans prepared to pay.
And, as broadband internet speeds become faster, costs will probably fall, ensuring that most of us can be enthralled by events such as the O'Neill Downhill Extreme or the Cape Epic Tour.