19th October 2018
In Focus: The changing face of football viewing
By Alex Abbott, BA (Hons) Football Business & Marketing Student at UCFB Wembley
After attending a recent discussion titled ‘The World of Football – Post World Cup’, it became evident that the new Premier League broadcasting deal, starting from the 2019 season, will be one that influences the way football is consumed in the future.
New entrants such as Amazon and Facebook will join Sky and BT Sport in showing live games across the globe. This will increase competition as well as the number of games shown each season. After listening to guest speakers, together with conducting independent research, it is clear that the deal will impact football consumers in a number of ways.
An interesting point raised was that consumers are increasingly engaging with football content by using devices such as mobile phones, laptops and tablets. This can be accessed through applications including BT Sport and Sky Go. One reason for this could be due to the high prices of attending live games.
Football brand specialists Performance Communications and ComRes carried out research in 2016 and 2017 that showed 79% of football fans believed that tickets to live football events were overpriced. One group particularly affected were fans aged between 18 and 24.
The research from both organisations backs up a report by the BBC that stated the average age for a spectator in the Premier League is 41. This suggests that fans currently able to attend live events are predominantly middle-aged professionals with high disposable incomes.
The rising price of fandom
It is clear that people across a plethora of different demographics are struggling to afford fandom as ticket prices soar, effectively pricing them out of the market. This in turn causes many to adopt low behavioural loyalty to sports events by forcing them to choose when to attend based on their financial situation.
A positive impact of the new broadcasting deal, which includes plans to show the highest amount of live games each season ever (200), will be the accessibility for football fans to watch more live Premier League fixtures than ever before.
With season tickets costing up to £1768.50 for the 2017/18 Premier League season, Amazon could be viewed as helping fans to watch football in the comfort of their own home at a much-reduced cost. Their charge of just £7.99 a month for Prime Membership, which students can trial 6 months for free, is in stark contrast to the aforementioned.
On an international level, from the 2019 season, Facebook will begin to show all 380 games live in countries such as Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. This deal, reported by Business Insider to be worth around £200 million will allow a vast number of people to engage with the Premier League via an online platform rather than through a traditional television subscription.
However, lucrative deals like this may have negative consequences in the future inside stadia. A report by the BBC suggested that more than half of Premier League clubs could have played in empty stadiums and still made a pre-tax profit in the first season of the current broadcast deal.
New entrants such as Facebook, entering the market from 2019, will make the Premier League more accessible and in turn even more popular around the world. Given this, is it wrong to believe in the possibility that clubs in the English top flight will care less if their stadiums are half empty on match day, particularly as they will still be making money?
It is clear that the sport is becoming more and more about business gain and less about increasing attendances at games. In time, there is a strong likelihood that companies like Facebook will stream all 380 Premier League games live in England, only making problems such as low attendances worse.
Since the Premier League began in 1992, it has become clear that large international companies have capitalised on the popularity of the sport.
Increased competition and bids from companies such as Sky and BT Sport have led to a rise in subscription costs for viewers. In 2017 alone, The Independent found that Sky and BT Sport increased their prices by 10 percent and 8.9 percent respectively.
From 2019, sources online show that subscribing to Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon Prime will cost around £73.98 per month. It is perhaps ironic that competition authorities, who’s main aim is to protect consumers, don’t allow the Premier League to sell game rights to a sole provider, or show the games themselves at a fairer price. Instead, fans have to pay for multiple subscriptions to follow games throughout the season, a problem that will only get worse now Amazon and Facebook have entered the market.
To conclude, even though subscription costs are seen as expensive to many, the impact of Amazon and Facebook coming on board could be seen as a positive as it allows fans to access sporting action from wherever they are.
With the new deal to show more than half of Premier League games on the TV and internet in England, and all of the games in certain countries elsewhere, it is clear that the switch of consumers accessing content on their devices rather than attending games will only increase.
Even though factors such as decreased atmospheres inside stadiums could become more evident, it remains to be seen how important this will be to clubs if exposure and revenues continue to increase.