As their customers’ incomes shrink because of wage freezes and tax increases, the major broadcasters are spending money buying up rights to football matches. According to this Guardian write up, Premiere League football clubs made losses of £361 million last year on income of £2.3 billion. Now their income will be boosted by a new TV deal, which is costing the broadcasters £6.6 million per game.
Obviously, BT are hoping to compete with Sky in the pay TV market, and their 38 Saturday lunchtime and mid-week games might help that. But I wonder. If you’re already paying a small fortune for your Sky subscription, are you going to add a BT Vision subscription, too? And if you’re getting 116 games on Sky, you’re hardly likely to abandon that for the 38 games on BT.
So who does BT think is going to pay for all this? I’ve tried BT Vision and abandoned it almost immediately, because it didn’t work properly, and tried to make me pay for free services like BBC iPlayer.
Setanta went bust trying to compete with Sky, so this could get ugly. Meanwhile, who’s going to pay for the massive spike in the price of a football game on TV?
The effect on fans is more uncertain. BT and Sky may have to charge more to cover their huge investment. When asked whether clubs would use the windfall to subsidise ticket prices, Scudamore would say only that it “gives them more choices”.
Tony Ball, the former BSkyB chief executive who helped fuel the company’s growth in the mid-1990s, is a non-executive director on the BT board and is likely to have advised it on its bidding strategy. ESPN, the US giant that entered the market when Setanta went bust trying to compete with Sky, has now been frozen out.