Worrying times ahead maybe for BT Sport and Sky Sports in particular.
The Financial Times have revealed that in the season just gone the average viewing of Premier League matches on Sky Sports live TV channels fell by 14%, the biggest fall they have ever recorded.
Those figures look even worse when you consider that the latest TV deal which kicked in with the 2016/17 season, saw Sky Sports agree to pay two thirds more cash for the rights to cover the Premier League, working out at about £10m per game.
Sky Sports spent a total of £4.2bn to show 126 Premier League games per season up to and including 2018/19.
BT Sport paid £960m to show 42 games each of these three seasons and recorded a more modest fall of 2% fall in average viewing.
The Financial Times also revealed that broadcasters had admitted losing Newcastle United was a big blow to Premier League viewing figures:
‘Sky said the dip in the average numbers — the worst since Barb established its current audience measurement methods in 2010 — was partly explained by the new rights deal that gave it 10 additional matches featuring smaller, less popular teams.
The European pay-TV group added that the relegation of big clubs such as Newcastle and Aston Villa in the previous season hit viewing, as did live coverage of the Rio Olympic Games on the BBC in August. At one stage in the autumn, average viewing was down by as much as 19 per cent.’
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if this trend continues long-term, then the cash for UK Premier League rights can’t continue its so far ever upwards trajectory.
With top tier clubs ever more reliant on the TV money, the bubble which was always going to burst sometime, could maybe happen sooner than anticipated.
The Financial Times also report:
‘Broadcasters are under pressure as “cord-cutters” switch off their set-top TV boxes in favour of internet-based rivals such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
Despite the fall in viewing, Sky said it was encouraged that the total number of people watching Premier League coverage last season was at its highest for three years — based on people watching Premier League coverage across all its platforms for a minimum of 15 minutes.
The broadcaster pointed to a 31 per cent increase in viewing through Sky’s own streaming services Sky Go, which allows subscribers to watch on a smartphone or tablet, as well as Now TV, where football fans can buy day passes for £6.99 instead of signing up to a longer term pay-TV deal.’
Analyst Mathew Horsman of Mediatique said:
“This is complex but there is some suggestion younger viewers are watching all the other stuff available to them on multiple platforms and that the high price of subscribing to premium football is putting off subscribers.”
So the bottom line is that there is still arguably just as much interest in watching live Premier League/English football but that punters are finding cheaper ways to access it, via the legal ones outlined above – as well as those who access via the internet and from the overseas TV channels.
Newcastle United of course dominated the Championship TV viewing figures, providing nine of the ten biggest live TV audiences this past 46 game season – details of those figures/games HERE.