BY MATTHEW CRIST
With the news that Amazon will be showing 20 live Premier League games from the 2019/20 season while La Liga and Serie A games have also found a new home, armchair football fans may well be asking just what they are getting for their money when it comes to expensive, monthly sports subscriptions.
By snapping up Bank Holiday and midweek fixtures Amazon have not only broken the broadcasting duopoly which had existed for a number of seasons as they look to bring more sports content to their ever growing band of customers, which now includes the NFL and the US Open tennis, it has given already stretched viewers something of a headache.
To make things more complicated, earlier this year it was announced that Eleven Sports, founded by the Leeds United owner, Andrea Radrizzani, had acquired exclusive rights to the Spanish top flight for three years; bringing an end to an association with Sky Sports that has lasted for more than two decades.
And now the same company has bagged the rights to Serie A coverage with Eleven Sports revealing that it is to launch two new channels in Britain and Ireland showing live matches from the top Italian and Spanish leagues as well as streaming games online via mobile apps.
So with viewers having to pay extra subscriptions on top of what they already fork out for Sky Sports and BT Sports, watching football could end up being more expensive than ever as signing-up to all of the packages could cost upwards of £100 a month.
When Sky Sports brought us the newly formed Premier League in 1992 there was uproar as viewers realised they would need to pay a yearly subscription if they were to watch what the broadcaster then dubbed a “whole new ball game,” but over the years it has become accepted as the norm that if it’s live football you are after then Sky was the place to go.
Live FA Cup games, European tournaments, international fixtures, lower division football and overseas tournaments soon followed, meaning that Sky pretty much held a monopoly when it came to broadcasting football on almost every level.
However, when BT Sport was launched in 2015, a free platform for their broadband customers at the time, and announced that they had secured the exclusive rights for Champions League games, it sent shock waves through the broadcasting world while also highlighting the fact that for the football fan any shift from the existing status quo might lead to a greater outlay.
Suddenly, rather than one monthly payment for all the football that anyone could want to consume, if you wanted to see it all you were now required to pay two; bad news for the consumer and potentially bad news for the game too.
Whereas what is often referred to as the most exciting league in the world was able to rely on a regular income from Sky Sports who were prepared to pay the highest price going thanks to millions of domestic subscribers, this dilution of outlets means that in future we may see the company, which introduced us to mega-money transfers and sky-high wages, having to reduce their own spend as market forces take effect.
With Sky offering a slimmed down package of Premier League games and forced to bolster their football coverage with Eredivisie matches and MLS coverage the once loyal punter might just be forced to make a decision which wasn’t available to them just a few years ago.
Of course, international rights will still mean that the Premier League won’t be going short of cash any time soon but as more and more packages become accessible to the highest bidder these recent developments might just be the beginning of a massive change to the way we all watch the beautiful game.
With the addition of streaming platforms such as Amazon and new players like Eleven Sports football fans now have more outlets than ever when it comes to consuming the game they love, not just at home but abroad too; but how much they are willing to pay for it, only time will tell.
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