Premier League UK TV Rights – More Games, Fewer Packages

Premier League UK TV Rights – More Games, Fewer Packages

Regular readers will know that I’m a little obsessed with the TV rights to Premier League football, and I only last wrote about the upcoming rights round a month ago.

According to the very well connected FT (£), the Premier League is likely to offer fewer rights packages this time around, but with more games in total. In particular, rather than the previous three year terms, this time around the Premier League would auction off rights for four years. The FT reports that this is based on broadcaster feedback, with them wanting more time to invest in the production elements. This also might mean broadcasters ending up paying less per game, but more overall.

This also offers business certainty – knowing where you stand a bit longer. It also potentially gives broadcasters more time to transition their businesses. For example, it seems very likely that Sky will have fewer households watching via a dish at the end of the next rights period that they do at the beginning, as more homes transition to streaming. Given that streaming’s economic models can be challenged, with advertising becoming the norm from a position of everywhere being ad-free at the start, and the seemingly constant rounds of subscription price increases, it’s a complicated time for broadcasters.

The FT piece suggests that there will be an increase to the 200 games currently offered at present (Last month I suggested that 250 games might be the number we end up seeing), with games spread between Friday and Monday. But the FT also suggests that there might be “earlier slots on Saturday.”

I’m a little confused about this since we already have 12:30 kick offs on Saturdays. Given that games need a full two hours these days to avoid overlaps, with 10 minute injury time allowances not uncommon, if the “Article 48” 3pm blackout is to be maintained, you could perhaps squeak by with fixtures at 11am, 1pm and then 3pm.

But 11am feels very early. A lot of actual playing of football takes place on Saturday mornings in parks and on pitches up and down the country. And I’m not sure that TV audiences are likely to be keen to watch games at that time – at least not in the UK. I’d just note that 11am is 6pm in Beijing and 7pm in Seoul. What chance Spurs getting lots of 11am games if that slot was opened up?

And of course, for traveling fans, that would be getting very tricky.

A previously suggested Sunday evening slot seems unlikely according to the FT. Getting traveling fans home on a Sunday evening would not be much fun, and in any case, while US TV seems to basically give up on Sundays and hand swathes of the audience over to the NFL on NBC (A colossal 27m watched last weekend, helped in no small part by Taylor Swift being on hand and featuring in regular cutaways), that’s not the case in the UK where big audiences watch shows like Strictly…, Antiques Roadshow and 9pm prestige dramas across both BBC1 and ITV1.

The number of package is likely to fall from 7 to 5, with more games per package. In particular the “Amazon” package is likely to disappear and be swallowed up into a larger more regular offering.

I’ve long thought that having a short blitz of fixtures made little sense and I’m sure that Amazon would much prefer having a regular weekly fixture as it does with the NFL in the US, where it is home to Thursday Night Football. A weekly Premier League match would pair nicely with their Tuesday night Champions’ League match which starts next season.

I had previously discounted DAZN as a bidder, but the FT says they will get involved. And while the FT doesn’t mention Apple, I’d still be surprised if they didn’t at least have a look, since their UK sports offering to date is limited to a couple of weekly MLB games that air very late UK-time. And yes, MLS is available as an Apple upsell, but aside from a few Messi super fans, I’m not sure that many in the UK can be subscribing.