£8.3 billion. That’s how much Sky and BT, two giants of the domestic broadcast world, paid to the Premier League for television rights for the next three years.
On the face of it, this appears to be an extortionate figure but the opportunity to grab exclusive, territorial access to those rights is just too great to miss out on. In the UK, Sky and BT dominate the market whilst NBC are fortunate enough to broadcast Premier League football over in the United States.
The commercial exploitation of broadcasting rights across the world is already worth billions and it will continue to increase as more platforms get involved. Last year, the Premier League moved to take out an injunction on those illegally streaming via Kodi boxes – one of the biggest ever anti-piracy crackdowns. For the Premier League governing body, this is an issue that just won’t go away. Broadcasters are understandably as frustrated as rights owners and a long-term fix is needed.
Various rumours surrounding the future of major broadcasting via social media sources have been circulating for a while now, largely due to the success of certain sports on the likes of Twitter and Amazon. BT went big on the Premier League back in 2012 with a figure that was 77% higher than the previous deal and now, social giant Facebook could be about to ‘do a BT’ on BT. They certainly have the cash and technology to do it.
Facebook have dabbled with sports broadcasting before and they were very happy with the initial results, especially for the fans, broadcasters and rights holders. But are we ready for live Premier League streaming via social media? Possibly not. However, Sky Sports and Twitter did sign a deal for the official Sky Sports football account to show real-time highlights of ‘goals and key moments’ on the social channel for the 2016/17 season and that has continued into the 2017/18 season.
But it isn’t all about English football. Perform Group signed a 10-year deal with the J. League in Japan for $2 billion, a deal much more lucrative than previous broadcasters Sky had agreed. This signalled the first time that a pay-television broadcaster had lost the rights of a top-tier football league to an over-the-top content operator in Japan, a sign that times are changing in all corners of the globe.
Back in 2014, Perform Group and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) announced a ten-year media agreement in a positive attempt to increase exposure of women’s tennis. The deal was worth over half a billion dollars and, at the time, represented the largest live media rights venture in WTA history and in women’s sport as a whole. It isn’t just Sky and BT who are making moves throughout the industry.
Broadcasters need to be protected, it is as simple as that. The Premier League are working hard to clamp down on illegal streaming and there has been a definite shift back towards traditional viewing methods. The right to broadcast the Premier League is a prized asset but Sky must get the balance right; overcharging for subscription rates will only force more viewers to go down the cheaper, illegal route.
The cost of buying sports rights is higher than ever and there is plenty at stake for fans, rights holders and broadcasters. Live events are always highly sought-after but the Premier League is on another level. In what is now a fairly scarce industry for live television, there is high value in broadcasting such programmes and it is only right that everybody is happy with and benefits from the final solution.
MSA Focus & Alex McMahon
Alex is an independent writer, working in the field of broadcast, media & technology.