There used to be a time when football games went unnoticed because they were not televised. In England highlights of the First Division were only shown since Jimmy Hill revolutionized TV with his Match of the Day programme, while in Germany ‘Das Aktuelle Sportstudio’ at ZDF, the second terrestrial channel, broadcast the highlights of the first division since 1963. All that has changed in Germany when SAT.1, a private channel bought the rights for the highlights and started their ‘ran’ programme that had an audience in the studio and intended to liven up football presentation in German TV. Britain saw nothing short of a revolution when the Premier League was introduced and TV rights sold off to BSkyB.
With the current TV deal for the Premier League to expire in the summer there had been rumours that Apple and Google might enter the fray and bid for the live packages. These remained rumours. And yet it might show other sports new ways to open up markets for live broadcasts from major events. It is highly likely that Sky and ESPN will once more share the TV rights for England’s top division.
The usual suspects bidding again
Just to recap, Sky currently pay £1.6billion for 115 live games per season. This is certainly set to increase with the new deal and automatically limits the number of serious bidders to less than a handful: Sky, ESPN and Al-Jazeera. The latter have last summer bought the broadcast right for the French Ligue 1 from the 2012/13 season until 2016 for €90m and the Champions League rights from 2012 until 2015 for €61m. This just underlines their aim to grow on the European market. It may also present a to Sky’s current unrivalled position in the English market. It remains to be seen though, how Al-Jazeera’s engagement develops in terms of revenue as French football is not as popular and sought after as English or Spanish football, currently.
Football going mobile
This however, will not alter the ways we watch football on television dramatically. Or maybe it will. With mobile devices improving rapidly and streaming channels online ever more popular, the question is when the first application for such devices only will be introduced. The electronic giant Apple might be best suited to fill the gap; possibly in collaboration with big broadcasters it might soon be a requirement to own a mobile device to watch football online or at least the highlights when travelling. It could be the path for smaller clubs as well as companies to go down this avenue and explore new ways of broadcasting football in the near future. Be it a big station or their own, be it on local TV or their own club channel for a small fee for subscribers. Of course, some will fear that live games on club tv channels will undermine the gate figures but there are ways to avoid this possible clash. Games could be shown only after a certain period after the game whereas subscribers abroad could watch the games live. Highlight packages could further be offered. This could all be included in the season ticket or purchased separately. However things will evolve, television is and will remain something news enterprises will cherish. It is questionable whether Apple will enter the fray once the bidding starts; it is more likely that Google be considered a much more serious challenge as they own YouTube, the online video channel. This will make it easy to purchase rights and broadcast them either free or via pay per view.
The Premier League will certainly an increase in revenue for the sale of their television rights and so will the other leagues in Europe when it’s time for negotiations. However, society is becoming increasingly mobile and so will football and it’s only a question of time before we all need a mobile device to watch football on our daily commute or on holiday.