The New 2013/14 Premier League UK Tender: Some Initial Thoughts

Summary

The Premier League (PL) announced today the details of its next three year UK broadcasting tender document starting from the 2013/14 season. The PL are selling one hundred and fifty four live matches split into seven packages. Sixteen more matches have been made available per season. The live rights packages will consist of five packages with twenty six matches and two packages with twelve matches.

In the last auction one hundred and thirty eight matches, spread over six packages, were marketed to interested broadcasters with Sky winning five of the six available. ESPN won the one remaining package. There is also a highlights package and various near live, internet and mobile packages available too.

Some Initial Thoughts

1. With seven packages available could a terrestrial station afford one of the twelve match sets?

With the PL adding more matches to its UK offering, and splitting the seventh package in two, some believe that this makes the two, twelve match packages more affordable. This would ultimately depend on the grade of the fixtures and timing of packaged matches. Nonetheless, it may provide a terrestrial broadcaster with the opportunity to show twelve live PL football matches per season on terrestrial television for the first time.

2. Could extra packages make it more expensive for consumers to subscribe to the complete set of matches if more than two subscription broadcasters win the rights?

The risk with upstream competition, like in this auction, is the potential for multiple broadcast suppliers to win separate packages and demand subscriptions for each set of matches. Although this did not happen last time, with Sky and ESPN sharing all six packages, such an eventuality should not be ruled out. Many PL consumers will not be best pleased with multiple subscriptions which may collectively make viewing the full set of matches even more expensive.

For background as to why the PL cannot sell all their packages to one broadcaster click here for a previous article I wrote.

3. What does this auction mean for publican Mrs Murphy who has been through various national and European courts in her bid to show Greek broadcasts of PL matches in her pub?

The story behind the pub decoder cases could form the basis of a rather long book! For background on the matter, click here. The current state of play appears to be that pubs would be infringing PL copyright if they showed matches from domestic decoder card feeds purchased from another European Member State broadcaster. The previous benefit of purchasing foreign decoder cards was that the 3pm Saturday games could be televised (something that is not available through Sky and ESPN) whilst also being considerably cheaper.

With more matches being broadcast in the UK by the winning broadcasters from the 2013/14 season onwards, consumers and publicans alike may be attracted to the possibility of screening more games. This may also coincide with the PL making less games available to non-UK, EU broadcasters. The PL could even stop marketing the 3pm games to anyone in the EU to protect the lucrative UK market.

Whilst UK broadcasters may be happier that UK pubs have less incentive to purchase non-UK decoder cards, non-UK EU broadcasters are bound to be less enamoured if the number of games they can purchase decreases substantially. There may even be other auction restrictions placed on non-UK, EU broadcasters like only being able to broadcast the match in certain languages and/or limiting the number of commercial/pub licenses being available. Depending on the PL’s commercial focus, all of this may contribute, to maintaining UK revenues at the expense of the rest of Europe. Many will be waiting on the outstanding EU PL live tender document to ascertain the number of games that will be available to be marketed to European broadcasters for their specific territory.

The UK live auction is expected to be concluded by June.

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