JOHN WRAGG explains why there could be danger ahead for the mega-bucks Premier League…
Is game going to hit the buffers?
IS THE massive football gravy train starting to hit the buffers? Sky TV are feeling the pinch - they have been shedding jobs and rebranded their channels. Why? To save money.
Not so many people are watching the football anymore.
Romelu Lukaku at £75m to Manchester United, Kyle Walker a few miles away at City for £50m. These mammoth, some would argue obscene, transfers are financed by TV money. In other words, our monthly subscription to Sky and BT. And we are cancelling. Sky’s ratings fell by 14 per cent last season and the Champions League on BT plunged by as much as 40 per cent for some games.
That staggering £5.14 billion Sky and BT paid between them for the current Premier League deal is starting to look like a huge noose around their necks.
This new Premier League season that has just kicked off is the second year of the deal. When they start talking about new contracts, the TV companies will surely be looking to pay less.
There is a possibility that football could be shown by Facebook or Twitter in the near future, adding to the pressure on Sky and BT.
If Fantastic Friday, Super Sunday, Marvellous Monday and all the other hype fails to pull in the punters, then maybe our football might be forced back into the real world.
Barney Francis, Sky Sports’ managing director, paid £4.2 billion, 83 per cent more than the previous deal, or a staggering £11m per game.
Simon Green, head of BT Sport, picked up the rest of the tab, plus another £1 billion for the Champions League.
But they are getting their fingers burned.
People aren’t daft. They’ve started looking at cheaper ways of watching their football.
The money isn’t streaming in anymore. It’s being streamed off.
There is a rise in the cheaper streaming offered by Netflix and Amazon. A fee of £8 and change from a tenner for a game is a lot different to the £49.50 Sky were asking for a pay-TV package.
Now with Sky 1, 2, 3 etc gone, you could get it for £18 on the dedicated Premier League channel.
Big clubs Aston Villa and Newcastle dropping out of the Premier League with their huge fan base ready to put their hands in their pocket has been given as part of the reason for the plunge in viewership.
That’s a good point. Newcastle are now back while Villa wallow about spending parachute payments on transfers and wages to try and find a return.
But just look at who plays in the Premier League now. There’s a clue in the title here. This is the Premier League, the cream, top of the bill – and in it are Bournemouth, Brighton, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Huddersfield, Leicester, Stoke, Southampton, Watford and West Brom. You are not going to get the wife to give up Coronation Street on a Magnificent Monday night to watch that, are you? It’s the stars, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool who pull ‘em in. Europa League viewing - a bit like The One Show in its appeal - was up last season. Why? Man United were in it. The superstar clubs know it’s them that pull in the viewers. There are already big rumblings about going it alone with their TV money. As the stars, they’re no doubt saying, why should we give money to the support acts? Even Derby are talking about it. There’s another topic being talked about in the big chairs in executive offices. No relegation. The franchises in American sport don’t have to fear it, why should we? Get the big clubs up out of the Championship like Leeds, Villa, Sheffield Wednesday, Sunderland, Derby, Nottingham Forest, maybe Wolves. Get Rangers and Celtic down from Scotland. Then shut the door. You don’t leave the doors of a bank open all day, do you? This is the bank of the Premier League, such riches. Competition would die, of course. The Premier League, or whatever fancy new title it might get, would become boring repetition, as bad as the group stage of the Champions League, where you play for months before the teams you knew would make it anyway qualify. The Champions League group stage was invented to make money, the Premier League the same. Rupert Murdoch took a gamble on football rescuing Sky TV 26 years ago. Originally, the plan was for big films to bring in the money. Now, with Murdoch’s money, footballers are the modern film stars. Early ratings last season for live Premier League games on Sky were down 19 per cent. If they are down again this season, look out for panic. And not just the TV execs. You can bet that all those footballers from Spain, Italy, France, Germany, the whole
United Nations lot of them, who said they always wanted to play in England because the Premier League is the best in the world, will be looking at pay packets that no longer bulge like a double burger whopper and head back home.
It might be no bad thing. It might give us our game back.
With the majority of those average foreigners gone, we might get back to players in our teams that we recognise, can spell and pronounce.
We might get back to having our own local heroes.
When Oxford United of League One appoint Pep Clotet as their manager rather than give a British coach a break, you have to wonder whether it has all gone too far.
Pubs have been asked to pay more now so that Sky and BT can get a decent buck from their billions of bang. It costs an average pub around £20,000 a year for punters to buy a pint or three and watch Sky or BT.
Sky put up their prices to pubs by ten per cent last summer and BT by nearly nine per cent. They did that because they couldn’t risk upping the individual packages to homes.
The irony is that for years the Premier League has been trying to stop pubs showing ‘pirate’ coverage of games from abroad and attempted to stop illegal streaming at source.
Now, you can either go legit via Netflix or Amazon or go DIY. Most homes in Britain have speedy enough wi-fi to download what you want off the internet.
It’s jolly for Roger but a nightmare for Murdoch.
Sky tv are feeling the pinch. They have been shedding jobs and rebranded their channels. Why? to save money. Not so many people are watching the football any more
Big switch: Kyle Walker left Tottenham for Man City in a £50m deal On the move: Romelu Lukaku joined Manchester United from Everton for an initial £75m