SBD/October 12, 2011/Media
Liverpool Will Challenge EPL's International Broadcasting Rights To Seek New Deals
Published October 12, 2011
SHAKING THINGS UP: Ayre said, "If you're a Bolton fan in Bolton, then you subscribe to Sky because you want to watch Bolton, and everyone gets that. Likewise, if you're a Liverpool fan from Liverpool, you subscribe. But if you're in Kuala Lumpur there isn't anyone subscribing to (rights holders) Astro or ESPN to watch Bolton -- or if they are, it's a very small number -- whereas the large majority are subscribing because they want to watch Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal. So is it right that the international rights are shared equally between all the clubs? Some people will say, 'Well you've got to all be in it to make it happen.' But isn't it really about who people want to watch on that channel?" In London, Ian Herbert notes the EPL "will strongly resist any attempt by its bigger clubs to buck the system of collective bargaining." Chelsea and Arsenal "have been advocates of the Liverpool view in the past." But Ayre's position, which Herbert notes "would not have been put forward without [Fenway Sports Group]'s blessing, reveals the new owners' boldness in trying to shake up Liverpool's commercial fortunes" (London INDEPENDENT, 10/12). Also in London, Ashling O'Connor writes, "Perhaps it is more a reflection of Liverpool’s state of mind that this has come up now." O'Connor: "While they are physically constrained by the limited capacity of Anfield, they have watched [Manchester] United rule the world commercially by dint of a concerted strategy to extract every penny of sponsorship possible out of each individual country." O'Connor notes it is "hard to see other clubs supporting" Liverpool while the league's overseas rights deal "nearly doubles each time the Premier League takes it to market" (LONDON TIMES, 10/12).
IMPACT ON CURRENT BROADCASTERS: In London, Owen Gibson reports most experts "agree that the domestic deal is unlikely to increase much further -- BSkyB and ESPN effectively invest above the market rate at a level they believe maintains the quality of the product on offer." Gibson adds, "It is the huge growth of the Premier League and its teams overseas that will be the engine for future growth" (GUARDIAN, 10/12). Also in London, Dan Sabbagh reports should team rights be sold individually, Sky "could concentrate on buying up a handful of the big clubs and pay less overall by leaving the smaller clubs." That could create an opportunity for other broadcasters "to come and buy up rights held by some smaller teams, but a free to air commercial broadcaster like ITV could only justify paying an absolute maximum of [US$2.4M] a match." With the BBC "cutting back on its sports budget, and given that it has passed on bidding for the FA Cup and England matches, it won't play ball at all" (GUARDIAN, 10/12).
CYCLICAL CHANGE: In London, David Conn wrote it was "only a matter of time before the big clubs would start to challenge this last vestige of sharing, as they did in the 1980s, removing, with the threat of the breakaway they ultimately did anyway, the sharing of gate receipts which had been core to the Football League's competition since it was founded in 1888." Conn: "It is a bitter pill, but not that surprising, that the club which has articulated this appetite is one of the four major clubs owned by American buyers" (GUARDIAN.co.uk, 10/11).