For 20 years that scourge of Scottish football has been that it does not have a high-earning TV deal. Today, the scourge of the English Premier League is having to compensate for the world’s highest earning domestic TV deal.
The League have recommended they give a rebate of £330m to broadcast partners, Sky, BT, Amazon and BBC to compensate for loss of this season’s fixtures – even if the games are rescheduled in June and July.
TV rights are not just about the game itself, the slots are also important. You have watched Celtic on a Friday night because these slots are less valuable than Sunday afternoons, which, at Sky, are given over to the more valuable English league. Even the time of year is important. The Christmas fixtures, which take place in the run up to the event and during January sales, are more valuable, as their advertising slots command higher fees.
Advertising rates have plummeted since the crisis and will not rebound soon, meaning Sky, BT and Amazon’s affiliated income will be down correspondingly. The broadcasters also complain that a behind closed doors product is less watchable than a game taking place in a packed stadium – throwing back at the Premier League one of their golden sales pitches.
There is an assumption that with a comprehensive (and expensive) testing process, English football will be able to complete this season’s fixtures, but games are around a month away and with lockdown easing, infection rates could be as volatile as results across the summer months. A £330m rebate could seem like good value if even behind closed door games are not available.
For 16 years I have been writing “Just because the English TV deal bubble hasn’t burst, doesn’t mean it is not a bubble”. The product is first class and it has been key to generating huge broadcast revenues in the UK and for foreign partners throughout the world.
The finest minds in sports business are now trying to keep this brand afloat, which is why I suspect this £330m rebate is a good deal for all, but the opening salvos on rebates for next season have already been fired, and the next rights deal will be agreed later this year.
When the SPFL are considering delaying prime games until there is a higher chance of fan attendance to keep next season’s deal afloat, you get an insight into what screws are being turned in England. Sky, BT and Amazon are not charities; games did not take place during the period agreed, contracts have been breached, there will be a price to pay.
If the bubble does not burst due to the crisis, it may be made of titanium. Still, at least they are not the English Football League, keep your eye on the Championship…