It could well turn out to be the deal where everyone loses. BT’s weekend swoop on European football rights is arguably more significant than its foray into the Premier League.
Back when the European Commission decided that one provider should not hold all the available Premier League packages it was hailed as being good for competition and good for the consumer.
What’s not to like? The competitive nature of the TV business can only keep the standard high. The consumer may have disagreed. While the competition increased, the football fan found themselves having to pay £10 a month extra if they wanted to see all the available Premier League matches. Can the costs really be held at their present level and does there come a point when fans say enough is enough and subscriber revenue is hit?
BT Sport has agreed to pay in the region of £299 million per season for the exclusive live broadcasting rights to all 350 matches of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League for three seasons from 2015/16. BT Sport is currently a freemium package, the three channels available at no extra cost to subscribers to the telco’s broadband packages, big basic customers on Virgin Media, and £12 a month to Sky subscribers without a BT connection.
When BT chief executive Gavin Patterson spoke on Saturday he emphasised the rollout of BT’s broadband services as much as the TV elements. Does the price of that broadband subscription now rise and if so will non-football fans – it’s amazing how many you meet – go elsewhere?
During the autumn and winter months the Champions League takes up a hefty chunk of Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, on two linear channels, and Red Button services that mop up the remainder of the games. How or will these games find their way onto other platforms.
But it isn’t just Sky that has to check the availability of speedway and greyhound racing.
On Saturday afternoon I happened to bump into a friend who had worked at ITV Sport. He feared for the future of his former colleagues. While Sky has held the pay-TV rights to the Champions League, ITV has screened a top match free-to-air. The commercial broadcaster has now lost this and the Europa League games that were shown on ITV4.
The relatively new entrant channel has been building up its sports rights portfolio, working on events such as the Tour de France and French Open tennis. Will these events gradually find themselves in the arms of pay-TV?
But as far as football is concerned ITV is in trouble, it has lost the FA Cup (to the BBC and Sky) and now has just England Internationals and international competition left in its portfolio.
Indeed, the much maligned FA Cup will from 2015 be the only means of watching live English club football on free-to-air television.
Magic of the cup anyone?