Whenever the English Premier League announce a new television deal, it is something that generates a whole host of interest. With figures now in the billions, the race to screen one of the best sporting competitions in the world continues to heat up.
And the battle will have only intensified with the news that delivery giants Amazon have now entered the fray with the announcement that they will be showing 20 fixtures when the new deal starts next season.
It’s good news for the English game’s top division as it means that the money attached to the competition continues to swell. However, it is once again not good news for the most important people in the game.
That of course being the fans. With the news that another content provider has been awarded the rights to show matches from the English top flight, it undoubtedly means an additional cost that supporters will have to find.
The current situation already sees their wallets stretched due to having to fork out for both Sky and BT Sports should you want to see all the available Premier League matches that are shown by the two companies.
Therefore, the arrival of Amazon is only going to muddy the waters further as it means a third subscription is going to be required, with the segmentation of the English Premier League on television increases ever further.
While one should not forget that this is only the lie of the land for the aforementioned Premier League, if fans want to include European action into their schedules then the cost will increase further.
Before BT Sports arrival on the scene back in 2012, it is fair to say that rightly or wrongly Sky had a monopoly on all the blue riband fixtures that took place either home or abroad. A situation that was eventually ended when the European Union decided that more than one broadcaster had to show the Premier League.
And although both Setanta and ESPN both tried and eventually failed to take on the might of Rupert Murdoch’s Sky, it did mean that BT Sports could then try their luck to try and establish themselves as a serious player in the UK market.
And although they perhaps don’t have as big a Premier League portfolio as they would like, they have at least managed to beat Sky in the race to show the UEFA governed competitions such as the Champions League or Europa League.
Again, it’s not great news though for the fan or perhaps now they should be labelled the consumer, as before both the Premier League and Champions League were solely a product that was shown on Sky.
ANOTHER BRICK IN THE PAYWALL
Now though, it means that it is the biggest Premier League matches on one broadcaster and the cream of Europe on another. Not only that though but the decision by UEFA to put their matches behind a solid paywall has gone some way to hurting the competition itself.
In the 1990’s the Champions League was an exciting tournament to watch on ITV. Manchester United’s exploits against the very best clubs on the continent was almost event television as the likes of Ryan Giggs and Roy Keane lit up the screen. Roy Keane is probably one of the most famous Irishmen in the world and he helps to take the stereotype away from the Rainbow Riches style Leprechauns and pots of gold that are associated with Ireland and instead shows the true grid of a rock hard footballer who intimidates all his opponents
The reason behind the surge in popularity in the competition was due to the fact that there was so little live Football on television, especially compared to what we have now. Some fixtures that the Red Devils played would easily get in excess of 10 million viewers.
But now with no free to air access for fans iit means that interest has dwindled somewhat. Especially when you consider that the group stage in the first half of the season is usually a road that has already been well trodden.
This means that fans consider the expense of having to fork out for BT Sports as a cost too far and therefore they are happy to make do with the highlights clips that are now found on Youtube or perhaps making do with just a substandard stream of a midweek clash.
And it is a situation that has got even bleaker with the arrival of Eleven Sports this Summer. There business model seems to be one that sees them buy up all the filler from the schedules of their new Sky and BT based rivals.
Filler that predominantly comes in the shape of either Spain’s La Liga or Italy’s Serie A. Before these two leagues were found on Sky and BT respectively and complemented the rest of their schedules very nicely.
With teams such as Barcelona, Real Madrid or Juventus on offer, there was a very healthy fanbase as it came part of the bundle that purchasing a subscription would bring. However, they have now been stripped away and are the crown jewel of the burgeoning Eleven Sports.
So not only does it mean that there is another potential cost involved should you want to watch the likes of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo on a weekly basis, but it also has devalued the existing packages on offer.
It may only be a cost of £6 per month to add Eleven Sports to your viewing habits, but for a large number of fans it will be deemed one too many. A point that when you consider that the product itself is not enough of a hook for the additional expenditure that is required.
The only real fixture that would be a guaranteed ratings pull is the El Clasico between arch rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona. Bar that fixture then the clamour to watch Real Betis take on Girona or Sampdoria face Lazio is one that is not all that great.
However, there will be an ardent fan base that will want to keep up with the weekly goings on in both Italy and Spain and therefore have to find the additional money in which to do so. The cost to the fan is one that will only ever increase, at what point though do they say enough is enough?