Football is constantly changing. Unlike the Victorian era, now football belongs to everyone, not one single group in society. The richest and the most popular sport in the world. The beautiful game reached into the most distant and remote places. Football shirts are all over the Earth and the game’s stars are almost worshipped. But above all the rest, there is the Premier League, the brand which changed football once and for all. In the course of change, it generates an incredible amount of money and there is no sign of stopping.
Broadcasters made an enormous contribution in the transformation of the Premier League into the global phenomena. Recently Amazon have appeared as a force which increases possibilities for the league and engages spectators in the marvellous spectacle.
The ever-increasing value of English football
As Joshua Robinson and Jonathan Clegg write down in their book The Club, the Premier League’s rise is a “story about wildest gold rush”. The whole league’s value has increased by 10,000% during the period from 1992 to 2019. Remarkable.
“When the Premier League was formed in 1992 nobody could have envisaged the scale of international growth in the competition which exists now.”Richard Scudamore – Former Premier League executive chairman
English football reached its nadir during the 1980s when attendances diminished gradually, mainly because of hooliganism, poor infrastructure and lost interest from the public. Additionally, from 1985 English teams had been banned from the European competitions after the Heysel Stadium disaster, until the ban was lifted in 1991.
A turning point was in 1992 when then the top-flight first division was abandoned by the clubs and the Premier League was created. From that time Premier League ascended to the stars, it left other leagues behind and completely changed economics, culture and the geography of football.
How Sky Sports changed the game
In Turf Wars, Steve Tongue writes that “Football had always been afraid of live coverage”. It took years until clubs finally started broadcasting their matches on TV. It was shortly before establishing of the Premier League, and started in the middle of commercialisation; broadcasting distanced clubs from their loyal, native supporters and made them “available” for the rest of the world. It prepared fertile soil for the following invasion of English football in the distant parts of the world. The main broadcasting partner of the Premier League is Sky Sports from its initial season. From its very first season Sky acquired most of the matches available for broadcast on the British islands.
The accumulated money is distributed among the Premier League clubs by the Premier League itself. Thanks to the centralised distribution model “overseas rights revenue” is distributed equally among the clubs and “domestic rights money” is distributed based on a “50:25:25” model. This means there is a possibility for the clubs to gain additional money from matches which had been selected for live coverage and final standing in the league. A very lucrative model as it is.
Latest changes resulted in increased revenue based on a club’s final position. The Premier League claims that from 2019/20 season onward, the highest-earner can get 1.8 times more money than the lowest-earner. A rise from 1.6 in recent seasons. Finally, nowadays the system prevents widening the gap between the top-six and the rest of English football. Despite the desire of the top clubs to get more revenue from their popularity around the globe.
Broadcasting of the Premier League
“A whole new ball game”. This was the motto of Sky’s advertisement campaign back in 1992. Look back now, this slogan prophesied the Premier League’s astonishing success. It became the most-watched and most breathtaking game, with fans from all around the world starting to affiliate themselves to its clubs. The definition of a global brand.
Pete Millward in his article of the same name as Sky’s slogan, claims that one of the main reasons which determined the clubs’ desires to create a completely new brand was their hunger to acquire increased profits from TV deals. During 1992-1997, revenue was £191 million per year. Obviously a low figure in comparison with the present day. But at the dawn of the newly established top-flight league, it was hard to imagine a better option. Also worth taking into account inflation over time. A new era required internal changes in football.
Among many others, Sky changed the distribution of matches and introduced Monday night football. A significant case because it illustrates broadcasters’ power and how they can change things. Even for the most powerful and richest clubs. But most importantly Sky Sports fundamentally changed the way of televising matches and introduced subscription-based broadcasting via satellite signal.
Initial years of the Premier League were followed by rising competition in the field of broadcasting. Sky was no longer the sole broadcaster. First, it was 2007 when Irish-based Setanta Sports acquired packages and during the 2007-10 cycle, both of them aired 138 games. From 2013 BT replaced Setanta, whilst also having exclusive rights for both the Champions League and Europa League. The ongoing 2019-22 cycle will see three broadcasters with the arrival of Amazon and consequently an increase in the total number of televised matches to a record 200.
A whole new ball game vol.2?
Of course, the Premier League needs reliable partners, which are financially stable and won’t cause a loss for the league. As was the case with Setanta’s case. Amazon not only meets with this demand but also opens up a new medium to broadcast matches and the Premier League will make preparations to fully conquer the digital dimension of football. Amazon acquired broadcasting rights on the two packages for 2019-22 cycle, including all 20 Boxing Day matches. The first time ever both Sky and BT had missed out.
As it is stated in the BBC’s article, packages which were purchased by Amazon were designated for the internet giants. They’ve taken an early advantage in the course of digitising football broadcasting. Like how Sky revolutionised broadcasting games in 1992, Amazon is doing it right now, giving full control of the content to the fans.
As I mentioned already, top clubs are trying to earn more money from broadcasting revenue. But according to the guideline of the league, any possible change of the rules must be agreed by at least 14 members of the Premier League. That means there won’t be any change of distributing revenues in the near future. Additionally, if the Premier League get accustomed to streaming services they will maximise revenue, which otherwise have dwindled from the start of the ongoing cycle. Speaking of the negative sides, the Football Supporters’ Organization already expressed their discontent. They claim that more live matches will decrease attendances and especially will affect away fans.
Premier League – Times are changing
Amazon will have three years to think their decision over. If this cycle works well for them, they will try to acquire broadcasting rights on even more packages. The traditional method of broadcasting is slowly vanishing, with the relative share of digital multimedia and streaming services increasing.
Clearly, Amazon and Amazon-like streaming services are the future of football. Starting from 2022 Premier League plans to launch their Netflix-style service which will be more “direct-to-consumer” and decrease the value of the service for foreign subscribers. Ultimately these changes could end Sky’s domination in British broadcasting sphere.
The traditional broadcaster may be in dire straits in a couple of seasons and suffer losses. All due to the refocus of their existing orientation towards streaming services. Amazon isn’t the only streaming-powerhouse who tries to acquire broadcasting rights. Facebook and YouTube also compete with each other, but up to now this competition had took place in non-European markets. Finally, Amazon appeared in the European market additionally secured Champions League rights for Germany.
Stated information indicates a global trend according to which football’s digitisation is inevitable occurrence. Amazon is in the vanguard of this change. Watch this space…
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