There are lessons for broadcasters from the withdrawal of Viaplay from the UK market. For the UK in general and even more so in Scotland, football fans are more inclined to attend games, unlike every other nation, where in-person support is far less. This is great for our game but makes our TV market different from the European norm.
There is huge value in showing away league games, where most fans cannot travel to or get tickets for – this is the key UK TV market. Cup semi-finals and finals in Scotland are not like they are in England. The Celtic-Inverness Scottish Cup Final was watched by Celtic fans who were unable to get a ticket.
Beyond that, it was die-hard football geeks, channel surfers and the odd Invernesian, who was not sufficiently motivated to pick up one of their unsold tickets but was happy to watch on TV. A game between the overwhelmingly dominant team in the country, and a lower league side has very limited appear to a neutral.
I don’t subscribe to Viaplay as the games they show I have a good chance of attending in person, if and when that doesn’t work out, I’ll make a game-by-game decision on where to watch. Many of us are in the same situation. This contrasts with the necessity to subscribe for away games in the league and Champions League, which pretty much all of us pay for.
The importance of the League Cup and Scottish Cup has never been greater. Celtic’s trophy count over the last seven seasons – 17 from 21 – has given even our lowest competition a cachet it never previously had. But in this respect, there is no correlation between a cup’s value to the fans who actually support their team, and the TV market.
To watch Celtic across all tournaments, you had to subscribe to Sky, BT and Viaplay; too rich for many families, not just those who could wait for a ticket ballot. Also, Scotland games are niche, not really part of the conversation. If you want our eyeballs, pay for our league games.