The subject of football television rights has always been a controversial one among followers of the English game ever since the Premier Leagues inception in 1992. Many felt at the time, that the monopolisation of live football by Sky would end the nations love affair with the game but how wrong were they. Sky’s contribution to the game in England has seen the Premier League become the most watched and arguably the most exciting league in world football but with a new bidding war of the horizon in the coming months, is the arm chair supporters patience running out?
Two years ago, BT Sport entered the game in an attempt to challenge the long time champions of coverage, Sky Sports and they now currently hold the right to 38 exclusively live Premier League matches along with live FA Cup and European football. BT Sport unquestionably struck their greatest blow yet to Sky when they paid out almost one billion pounds to steal away exclusive rights to the Uefa Champions League from next season onwards. That rights takeover by BT has only served to dilute the amount of top level live football on Sky with fears they may lose even more in the next Premier League bidding war.
At present, English football fans pay out more than any of their European counterparts for live football on TV but receive the least amount of live games with only 41% available for broadcast. This has lead to an investigation by Ofcom as to whether this is a breach of competition laws by the Premier League.
France is just one of the fine examples where every league game is available for TV broadcast should the likes of Canal feel to need to cover a certain game. In England, the 3pm kick-offs on a Saturday are very rarely available for TV broadcast and while traditionalists may support this stance, those who pay out hundreds of pounds to watch their favourite league deserve better.
There is no reason the Premier League can not make these 3pm games available to TV broadcasters who could then offer a ‘red button’ service where supporters could then chose which game to follow on 3pm on a Saturday, therefore keeping all stakeholders within the game happy.
However, with such a scenario looking unlikely, bar a historic decision from British broadcasting watchdog Ofcom, subscription holders can look forward to more price increases in order to foot the bill of extortionate rights packages being secured by the games top dogs.
If the Premier League were to remove this controversial cap on the number of live games available for broadcast it would not only increase the percentage of live football available for consumers to enjoy, but allow ‘new’ faces to enter the game such as ITV, BBC and Virgin media through diluted rights costs. Some will say therein lies the Premier Leagues objection to such a move with these incredible amounts of money going to finance the unmatched prize money the Premier League can offer.
To put it into perspective, last seasons bottom side in the Premier League, Cardiff City earned double the amount that Germany’s Champions, Bayern Munich did in TV revenue. If Virgin media were to have their way and Ofcom were to force the Premier League to sell the rights to all 380 games then you can see why owners of teams in the lower half may want to keep the current structure in place.