Televised Football - A Solution

Tuesday 16th March, 2010
Way back when I was a kid (making myself sound old again) we had 3 or 4 TV channels and most of the sport was on BBC1 with the odd bit on ITV. As things like the Snooker were the only things on at certain times of day, more people watched them. You went to school and people had been allowed to stay up late to watch Dennis Taylor win the final at the Crucible. I was recently told (by Dennis himself) that more people were watching that snooker win, after midnight, than were watching rower Steve Redgrave break the medal winning record at the Olympics - in the middle of the day. That is how popular televised sport used to be.

But it all changed, mainly due to Sky Sports who bought the rights to televise all the big football games. People flocked to satellite TVs which quickly started racking in massive revenues, which allowed them to buy more sport, and the cycle continued. Now pretty much all sporting events are on Sky for a ridiculous price and people are now paying around £70/month for the top packages. The old BBC coverage used to cost us about £5/month as part of the TV license. It's also now affecting other TV shows as many of the latest popular TV shows are exclusive to channels like Sky One - the buying power of Sky is so massive, it's hard to compete. It seems to be a fixed destination journey with all roads leading to Sky. There may be options for how to receive it, cable or satellite, but the source broadcaster is the same and the price is still high. Setanta Sports tried to compete but proved that there is pretty much a monopoly in televised sports these days. So what is the solution?

I propose the solution is to pass legislation that introduces compulsory secondary broadcast rights for all televised games. These rights would come into effect from the moment the full-time whistle is blown. So Man U are visiting Chelsea and the game is being filmed by the crew at Stamford Bridge. Sky, due to their buying power, would most likely own the rights to the live broadcast and it would go out on Sky Sports just as it does now. They may concurrently broadcast some other games live on other channels too, as they do now. Where things would change would be that the remaining channels, like the former Setanta, or even BBC/ITV could purchase the rights to broadcast the game with a time delay. A 3pm kick off would be done and dusted by 5pm at which point the kick-off could be shown on the secondary broadcast. The same game, in full, just not live.

How would this change things? Well, for those unable or unwilling to pay Sky, it would mean they could see the full game in the daytime; instead of edited highlights on Match of the Day. The broadcaster, if it's not free to air, may charge a fee for the channel but, as it's not live, it's going to be a LOT cheaper. Likewise, as they'd only have exclusivity for 90 minutes, Sky would be willing to pay much less for their rights which could make their channels cheaper too. Less money for TV rights would mean less money for Football Clubs who could no longer afford to pay such ridiculous transfer fees for players and bring the football economy down to earth a little. Nobody can argue that football players don't earn too much.

I understand business and I understand the need to let them have "exclusive live" contracts which means they are the only broadcaster for that match but my legislation, in summary, would revoke that exclusivity the moment the match ended. This would introduce forced competition into the market and a better, more affordable, "2nd class" option for sport viewers.

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