Football on TV

I must admit to being truly fascinated by the ongoing televised Premiership football wranglings.
Here’s where we stand at the moment. The premier league started off by breaking the rights into three groups: The Gold Package of 38 first choice games on Sundays at 4.00pm, The Silver package of 38 games on Mondays at 8.00pm, and a Bronze package of 62 games to be largely played on Saturdays at 1.00pm and 5.15pm (to avoid clashing with 3.00pm kick offs). There are also a number of highlights and “as live” packages up for grabs, including the rights ITV currently own for The Premiership (the “Match of the Day” rights). The invitation to tender is here (Registration required).
The reason for the breakup of rights is that the European Commission was convinced that it’s not in the public interest that all the games are wrapped up in one package, and was minded to think that each club should be able to sell its own games.
In my view, it’s certainly not a good idea that Man Utd gets to sell all their games for some extortionate rate, while no-one particularly bothers about picking up Portsmouth’s games. That just leads to “the rich getting richer”.
When the news broke, there was plenty of hyperbole about live football returning to terrestrial television for the first time in years. The story made the 10 O’Clock news.
Then a bit of common sense entered procedings as people realised that Sky were absolutely certain to outbid allcomers to win the Sunday, and most likely Monday rights. That left an enormous glut of Saturday (and sometimes Sunday) games available to either a Pay-Per-View bidder, or theoretically, a free-to-air supplier like the BBC. But even if, say, the BBC was willing to pay for all these games, could they actually schedule them? Two full matches a week, with the latter games finishing around 8.00pm in the evening, using up all that primetime, as well as the earlier games. And at least the BBC has two terrestrial channels they could spread the load over. ITV would surely be out of the running since again the 5.15pm games run into primetime, and they’ve already been very burnt showing highlights at 7.00pm in place of fare like Blind Date (RIP).
So at that stage, everyone began to realise that Sky and/or partners, would buy up the Bronze package and offer it as Pay Per View. Sky would have all the games, and the monopoly situation would continue, even though anyone could have bid.
The latest news is that rumblings from Europe mean that this was not a happy compromise, since the monopoly continued. The Bronze package has been broken into two smaller deals. It now seems likely that at least one of these packages – if not both – will fall into the hands of a terrestrial station.
There does remain the question of Pay-Per-View. No-one is ever really free to supply figures for these games, but I have my doubts over how well they do. I suspect that most of the money generated is through subscription packages which don’t earn the headline eight pounds per game. The games are sold abroad, so there is income to be generated there, but the revenue cannot be enormous in the UK market, since the pick of the games are always on either Sundays or Mondays anyway.
We wait for the results of the new bids.