Ian Melding explains why BT’s £900 million new deal is money for old Eu-rope.
BT Sport are very pleased with themselves, the fanfares are blasting from rooftop of BT towers and the Chief Executive has just emerged from his office like Garth from Wayne’s World after his night with Kim Basinger. From 2015 B.T. Sport will be the ONLY place to watch Champions League and Europa League football. Kabooom!
When the news broke BSkyB’s shares dropped by 10% and articles popped up all over the place asking if this was the beginning of the end for Sky Sports. The T.V. war is well under way and it seems that Jake Skywalker and the BT rebels have struck the first significant blow to Darth Murdoch and the evil empire.
Having now spent £900 million to exclusively show every game from the Champions League and the Europa League, B.T. Sport are now real players in the market place, but there is just one problem, and that is that the Champions League is really quite boring.
Yes, the adverts look amazing, Leo doing his flicks and Cristiano doing stepovers like a man walking a doberman with diarrhea, all interspersed with shots of Wayne snarling and pumping his fist showing true British spirit. The passion, the skill, the excitement, the Champions League.
The reality is really something different, The Champions League mainly consists of match after match of one sided maulings, ‘ so where is Cluj?’ conversations and more dead rubbers than a Spanish swingers party. As for the Europa League, well playing in that is used as a terrace insult.
‘Channel Five…Thursday night…’
There will be 350 games of European football per season broadcast, but how many will the public actually care about? Aside from the games with the British clubs, there will be some interest in the games with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and maybe Zlatan Saint-Germain. There is a big drop off in interest once you get beyond those teams.
It all feels rather like when Setanta thought that they could buy their way into the market by tapping into, what they thought was, the public’s insatiable appetite for football. Any football, just some Premier League football. Football. What Setanta soon discovered is that people aren’t interested in just football. People need to care about a game to be interested and if you are going to have to spend money to subscribe to a new TV channel in order to watch it, then you are going to have to be very interested indeed.
The figures from Sky show that the Champions League represents only 3% of Sky Sports viewing figures where as the Premier League accounts for 18% of their viewers. The obvious conclusion being that if your team isn’t in Europe, and every year 85 English and 38 Scottish clubs aren’t, then people don’t go out of their way to watch.
Football is about passion, it’s about rivalry and above all, it’s about caring who wins. Who would really care if Fernando Torres scores hat trick of overhead kicks against Elfsborg, or R.V.P smashed six past BATE Borisov? You can watch it on You Tube later anyway.
Even if both were free to air, most neutrals would rather watch a game like Cardiff vs Swansea than Chelsea vs Steaua Bucherest. If it isn’t free to air then there are serious doubts about the pulling power of the vast majority of the 350 games a season that B.T. have just bought. It’s like they have bought 100 packs of Panini stickers just to make sure they get a Kevin Keegan.
Sadly, the one definite outcome of this deal is that the big clubs will get richer and the poor clubs will stay poor. The level of income from this deal will have the money men drooling and will act as another incentive for the big clubs to close ranks and push for a European Superleague when the contract between UEFA and the European Club Association expires in 2018.