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SBD Global/July 28, 2014/Media

British Pubs Turn Away From Using Live Sports To Attract Customers

Pub companies and landlords "are turning their back on live sport as a magnet for attracting customers and darkening their TVs instead, signalling the decline in a relationship that was integral to the development of the Premier League and Sky," according to Blitz & Mance of the FINANCIAL TIMES. With three weeks to the start of the new Premier League season, landlords "must decide whether to renew their Sky and BT subscriptions." But with the pub industry "more focused on the eating-out market, there is growing evidence that landlords and pub groups regard screening live sport not just as increasingly expensive but a hindrance to attracting their target audience of 40-somethings, females and families." Surveys by the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers revealed "the proportion of landlords with a sports subscription is in steady decline." In '03, it was 51% but last season had slumped to 37%. Kate Nicholls of the ALMR said that with subscription costs averaging £15,000 ($25,500) a year and rising 5% from next week, landlords "were finding it harder to make the economics stack up." She said, "We are seeing a declining proportion of pubs majoring on sport. Changing demographics and costs come into it." Ralph Findlay, CEO of Marston’s, which is spending £80M ($136M) a year building new pub-restaurants, said, "Sport is less relevant now to the pub than it used to be. Customers are often put off by big sporting events in their pubs." According to Alistair Darby, CEO of Mitchells & Butlers, which has 1,600 pubs, "growth in home entertainment has seen pubs lose their competitive advantage." He said, "We are always reviewing the cost of sport. In 400 of our pubs it is still very important, but for a lot of other pubs to show sport would cost a lot of money. ... It is a significant investment." Pubs "have been a vital component of the Sky business model since the launch of the Premier League two decades ago because millions of fans were reluctant to pay a Sky home subscription to watch live football." Analysts following Sky said that "it gets income from pubs and clubs subscriptions of up to" £300M ($509M) a year (FT, 7/27).
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