They think it’s all over, but with 40 games still up for grabs in the latest Premier League broadcasting rights auction, the wheeling and dealing is far from done.
Four of the seven packages on offer were snapped up by Sky Sports, which will pay £3.5bn for 128 matches per season, a decrease on the £4.1bn it currently pays for 126 matches. BT Sport paid £885m for one 32-game package, down from the £960m it pays for 42 games per season, as it returns to covering Saturday lunchtime fixtures – a potentially valuable early footfall driver for pubs.
The pair have more or less met in the middle when it comes to price paid per game. BT Sport is paying £9.2m per game, an increase from £7.2m under the current deal while Sky Sports is paying £9.3m per game, down from £10.8m.
This means that while the overall price paid so far has decreased from £5.14bn to £4.4bn, the average price per game has almost flatlined – creeping from £9m to £9.25m.
Premier League in numbers
14% – the decrease in overall rights spend in the latest auction, so far
£20,000 per year – on average, the amount pubs pay to subscribe to Sky Sports and BT Sport (The Guardian)
£30,000 per year – the incremental sales seen by the average pub broadcasting football (MatchPint/CGA December 2016)
53% – the portion of the 10m MatchPint searches that were made for football in 2016 (MatchPint/CGA December 2016)
£304m – the amount Sky Sports spent for the first Premier League rights deal between the 1992-93 and 1996-7 seasons
2.1m – number of adults who watch live sport on TV out of home at least once a week (December 2016 Ipsos MORI Out of Home
43% – the total incremental sales increases Premier League football accounts for while fans are in the pub watching matches throughout the season (MatchPint/CGA
78% – the proportion of Sky customers who agree that the more Premier League games they show, the more money they make.
(Q1 Messages survey by Ipsos MORI. Based on 300 customers between 14/06/2016 and 07/07/2016)
If the Premier League gravy train has hit the buffers, what could this mean for pubs? “This is still a huge amount of money for Sky and BT to pay for rights,” according to MatchPint co-founder Dom Collingwood. “We don’t foresee it impacting price – indeed, if BT or Sky snap up the remaining two packages, the overall costs could increase.”
With 40 fixtures across bank holiday and midweek dates still up for grabs – the landscape could still look a lot different come the Premier League’s opening day in August 2019.
Sky Sports can only legally purchase the rights to 20 of the remaining fixtures and, with BT currently on course to show 10 fewer matches per season, we could see the big players share the remaining packages – allowing both broadcasters to increase their output.
Alternatively, having held early discussions with the Premier League before distancing itself from the fray, a new player like Amazon could dip its toe in the water with either the remaining bank holiday or midweek package or, unthinkably, the remaining games could go unsold – meaning overall output would drop by eight matches per season.
But, publicans like Philip Cutter – who runs freehold pub Gardeners Arms in Norwich and pays £32,000 per season for subscriptions to Sky and BT – are not seeing prices fall. “Although it would be nice to see a cut in the price, I guess that’s not going to happen,” he says.
Collingwood, however, argues that Premier League football can be a reliable earner for pubs. “Publicans we talk with have come to believe that Sky and BT are only worth it if there are 50 people in the pub – there are no more than 8 to 10 games a year during which this happens.
“However, the five people that come in for Liverpool v Stoke, and the seven people in for Watford v Spurs on Monday might add up over the course of a season. It doesn’t have the same per-game impact as international football, Six Nations rugby, or boxing, but the volume of games across the season give ample opportunity for return on investment.”
Yet industry figures such as Kris Gumbrell, chief executive officer of Brewhouse & Kitchen, still question the value of subscribing. “Last year, MatchPint and CGA reported an average uplift of £30,000 on wet sales from Premier League football, but with average subscriptions at £20,000 per annum, is that good business? When we invest in live music or other events, we task ourselves to achieve revenue uplifts of four times cost as a minimum to ensure a commercial return.
“Many licensees now see televised sport as a community service they provide at a significant cost to their business. That is surely not right or fair.”