What will Sky / BT / clubs do when the PL sells itself direct to fans?

By Tony Attwood

There is no doubt that the technology is available.   The Premier League could easily set up its own streaming service along the lines of Netflix and make all its matches available to view to anyone who wants to buy into the service.

This would give the League clubs total control over their “product” allowing them to fit kick-off times and days to their broadcasting schedule and to the demands of both UK and overseas viewers.

Since the whole service would be under their control rather than sold via an outside operator such as BT Sport or Sky Sport the full profit would come into the clubs.   Meanwhile, the fans would not be forced to buy into the whole Sky or BT service, paying for a vast amount of product that they had no interest in whatsoever.

It would result in a significant decrease in revenue to BT and Sky, and a significant increase to the clubs.

In such a scenario, more matches and lower prices looks like a win-win situation but of course this means that there is now a monopoly supplier going direct to the public, which in turn means that the public – the supporters in this case – has no real say in what happens.

Actually that would not mean too much difference since us fans currently have no say in what happens.   But there could be some benefits.

One might be the removal of the endless changes of kick-off days and times.  Since every game would be available live on TV everything could be planned in advance.

But would the actual fans in the stadium still be there?  Would people bother with season tickets when football on TV is cheaper than before, and every match is available?

I suspect so, providing the clubs get a grip and don’t continue to take the paying supporter in the ground for granted.   Paying supporters will put up with a lot for the experience of “being there”.  To see that this is true you only have to go to a game as an away supporter once or twice to see just how awful the experience can be.

And besides, with more and more money coming into the clubs directly there would be no need to force the price of tickets up and up.  If fans stop turning up for games at the current prices, the prices can be dropped.  Certainly what the TV watching audience don’t want is to see half-empty grounds.

Such a development will, of course, strike fear into the likes of BT Sport and Sky because they will lose the goose laying the golden egg.  Sky has already suffered a lot from the advent of movie streaming services and now would find its other major source of income – football – vanishing from its screens.

And undoubtedly if football makes a go of this project, so will other sports.  F1 would surely follow.

Amazon, who have helped the Premier League experiment with the idea of all matches available might get the contract from the PL, but it would make more commercial sense for the PL to own the whole system itself and simply say to Amazon, thanks for your help, now go away.

Of course what could really boost audience numbers would be a system that was fan friendly – but this may be too much to ask for.  A situation in which all PL games were available live, but fans only had to pay for the right to watch each individual club if that’s all they wanted – at the same time with the cost of going to matches in person greatly reduced (something the clubs could afford because they would be selling their TV presentations direct to their audience.

The problem is that this fans nirvana of all games available to everyone at a much lower cost without having to buy in matches that are of no interest and indeed sports that are of no interest is utterly against the way football has worked for years.

Added to which it puts all the power in the hands of the PL / PGMO alliance, meaning that any real discussion about what is actually happening in terms of match-fixing and the like would be even more of a dream than it is now.   The Premier League would have absolute power over what was broadcast and how it was broadcast, and as we know, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

It is not impossible to imagine hundreds of thousands of fans having their season tickets removed from them because of their failure to behave in keeping with the League’s own defined TV personality, (or indeed their failure to turn up for games).  After all WHU are already in the process of banning fans for wearing certain t-shirts, so why not ban them for joining in certain chants?  The WeCareDoYou alliance bemoan the soullessness of the Arsenal Stadium so why not ban those fans who don’t make any noise?

We know that fan behaviour can have a massive impact on a club – just look at the impact on Arsenal of the Wenger Out movement and all that follows.  The club has been turned from one that had the second-longest run in the Champions League in the history of the game, to a club that is now having its worst run (in terms of league victories) in over 100 years.   All in the space of four seasons.  That is quite an expression of fan power.

What the clubs want is absolute control – and it is now available to them, if they want to take it.  I suspect they will, and Sky and BT are about to see the golden goose waddle off.


8 Replies to “What will Sky / BT / clubs do when the PL sells itself direct to fans?”

  1. I’m not for the idea, I’m very much against it. It’s the tv viewer that will suffer. It will end up costing more than sky and bt, I’m afraid it would end up like boxing. Pay per view at a fiver a game, add that up by 38games. That’s a £190 a year. Plus games in Europe and other cup games it would end up being over £300 a year I bet. And I’m disabled , there’s a lot of poorer people that won’t be able to afford it

  2. I am a big fan of the idea.
    I believer it will actually be cheaper than currently having BT Sports, Sky Sports and Amazon. That alone for the big package is the cost Mr Baker suggests would be for one year.
    Streaming is the way forward, and anything to remove power from Murdoch is a win in my eyes.

  3. I put up a comment related to this, in an earlier thread.


    One of the paths which might be followed, is that the broadcast of football will burst and never recover. I don’t see that my “consumption” of football is going to have any part in its demise. I think football will continue to be a good means of providing a sport through which people can attain fitness. But the greed of the various FAs, clubs and advertisers is leaving me with a bad taste in my mouth. But the straw that broke the camel’s back to me, is the PGMO. And the EPL and The (sweet) FA going along with this crap that PGMO hoists on us.

  4. Sadly there is nothing to sell as the game has lost its soul. It won’t be long before supporters will want to watch other leagues with honest portrayal of the game.

  5. You ought to look at what happens in the US. I believe the one organisation that is at the forefront of all things diital is the MLB. They have the reputation of being the best at harnessing streaming, yet their games are played on TV…. The NFL sells streaming packages to games (I believe something like 300 something US$ for the season (August through January). Yet games are still being shown on public TV for some, on pay channels for others.

    There is another aspect that needs to be considered : anti-trust law. If the PL were to control broadcasts, it would mean we are in a vertical ‘concentration’ in industrial terms. They control the source, the rules, the broadcasts, the advertising, etc. Not sure that would be possible. They could start selling at a low price and once people are hooked, raise prices wholesale. No competition. Then again, Brexit has happened and I guess the PL could finance any political party/politicians to get what it wants.

    But before we get there, there is this matter of Brexit, rules for young footballers, etc. And at present I see this as a real danger to the PL as far as losing it’s status in the world. The day the Messis, Ronaldos, and others are not able to easily come to the UK, the level will suffer and I doubt the UK has enough talents and good competent coaches to feed the PL with the kind of stars it needs to compete against other leagues.

    Then again, personnaly, I’m not convinced the PL has the necessary brains/compentence constellation to do something like that. Greed and hubris seem to have encroached themselves in that organisation and at some point in time, the fall will come.

  6. What a story! We have DICK Scuadamore retiring, and DICK Masters’s taking over. And in between, we have David (DICK) Pemsel getting in trouble because of his DICK. And ManU and Liverpool get special priviledges, so that they can continue to DICK the rest of the EPL.

    It’s a DICK of a story.

    Is 😈 Mike Riley’s middle name Dick?

  7. OT: Missing Stories from the Medja

    Have you ever seen a story about a former player who decides to take their coaching ticket, say that they learned something?

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