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Each of the tenders contained amended rights from those that are available under the current cycles, with varying degrees of complexity in those differences.
No other traditional free TV obligations exist in this next cycle. A free to air package of rights was withheld by EPCR in order to satisfy their ambition for greater reach than one pay subscription broadcaster could offer.
What has been surmised, but unconfirmed, is that the move from two pay broadcasters to one lead to a drop in rights fee 4.
The question that this raised is whether the rampant inflation in the value of major sports rights in the UK might have hit a high point and might be slowing down or dropping.
However, any such suggestions were refuted in the next two sets of rights that were awarded. This pack was won by the BBC 5 , and is significant because there have been no free to air transmissions of live England home international cricket in the UK since The fact that details of this competition were, and remain at time of printing, to be agreed shows that a significant leap of faith was required by the bidders to ascribe a value to the rights.
Even higher fees could have been achieved had the rights been licensed on an entirely exclusive basis. Optionality was provided with 3-year and 5-year offers being welcomed 7. The number of matches on offer was significantly increased to a year, from the currently broadcast.
Sky subsequently acquired the UK rights in January As with the EFL, although not to the same extent, the number of games on offer has increased from to a year, split between seven different packs.
The appetite for more live content on TV is clearly still in the ascendancy. The single buyer rule remains, as was expected from the premium sports rights in the English market. Bids were submitted on 9th February amongst great speculation about the fees that broadcasters might pay and possible new entrants from the technology world to compete with the incumbent broadcasters Sky and BT The current trends in OTT services There was clearly a lot of commotion in the UK with major rights being swept up by traditional broadcasters.
There was also a significant amount of rights activity in the UK, and around the world, focusing on OTT over-the-top offerings. Whilst it is clear that OTT and digital offerings are increasingly important to rights holders for a number of reasons, there seems to be little, if any, conclusive evidence that traditional TV offerings are doomed.
A quick scan of the previous section of this article shows the rude health and ongoing ambition of the traditional TV broadcasters and should be enough to cause the doubters to rethink.
Some trends have appeared with respect to OTT offerings. The first is that a number of rights holders seem to be taking advantage of the ease with which they can offer direct-to-consumer DTC opportunities.
The proliferation of mobile devices, the improvements in screen resolution and the ubiquity of high-speed internet connections on the go, all contribute to this.
These offerings tend to run in parallel with TV broadcast deals, but with varying holdbacks and nuances to who gets to exploit which elements of the rights. A second group of rights holders are partnering with tech companies to ensure their sports achieve the exposure that they might not be able to realise through the traditional route of TV broadcasting.
There are huge benefits in following this route for the smaller and less established rights holders through simply building of exposure and engagement. The World Surfing League WSL 11 and Pro Fighters League 12 concluded deals with facebook for streaming of their content, proving that the more niche audiences can be well served.
Surfing is notoriously difficult to schedule, being so weather dependent. Facebook offers the WSL fans the required flexibility that linear broadcasting cannot, including a real-time notification service to ensure that they never miss an event.
The third trend is that of the digital companies themselves obtaining rights. Nevertheless there are clearly some challenges and learnings for relative newcomers to the market.
However, 1. It is difficult to be sure whether this particular case shows an issue of non-exclusivity, with viewers simply turning to the TV channel that they always watch the game on, unaware of the Amazon option. Can we really read in too much to this when there are multiple means to view?
Nevertheless, there is clear potential for Amazon with its market of 80 million Prime subscribers. The question, of how to realise this potential, is surely a hot topic for Amazon. This clear statement of intent, that premium sports rights are now squarely being targeted, is perhaps what is stoking the rumours that Amazon is to seek to acquire Premier League rights in the UK.
Traditional broadcasters do seem to be meeting the challenges posed by DTC offerings and tech company partnerships. Increasing amounts of content are being streamed online, usually on a simulcast basis with the linear TV broadcast, via the broadcasters own Apps, websites and social media pages.
The oft-reported imminent demise of traditional broadcasting in the face of OTT and social media threats seems not too imminent after all. Broadcasters provide OTT services, they invest and engage heavily in their social media presence and frequently operate happily alongside OTT offerings provided by rights holders or standalone OTT providers.
The fact that the vast bulk of live sports is still only available via pay TV, shows that pay TV is not going anywhere soon. Piracy and blocking orders Piracy remains a key consideration for all sports distributors, whether pay or free TV, OTT or social media.
In response, both rights holders and enforcement bodies are taking an increasingly proactive stance to stop such activity.
In March, the Premier League was awarded a temporary injunction under which the bigger Internet Service Providers ISPs in the UK were required to block access to a number of servers associated with the illegal streaming of live Premier League matches. The order bites on the same ISPs and follows a similar pattern of blocking against a confidential list of named servers.
Direct court action has also been taken by various rights holders with the Premier League again leading the charge.
The order also blocked any further sales of such boxes Inevitably, discussion about the root causes of piracy comes round to the cost of subscribing to pay TV services. It is clear that enforcement action alone is unlikely to fully counter the problem.
Operators are constantly seeking ways to encourage new subscriptions at a price that is not prohibitive. Sky Sports took the decision in July 21 to relaunch their channels, with Premier League, golf, cricket and Formula 1 benefitting from their own dedicated pay channels with the remaining channels covering other sports offered on a pay and free basis.
Customers have a much greater ability to pick and choose from the sports they care most about, and as a result could face a significantly reduced bill at the end of each month. This is in addition to Sky Sports Mix which is a free channel showing live sports content as well as magazine shows and other curated content.
Whether these efforts will have an appreciable effect on piracy remains to be seen, but any way that the barriers to legitimate entry can be lowered must surely be positive in the fight against piracy.
Sky were not the only ones launching new free channels. The FreeSports TV channel was also launched in August 22 promising to show live football, rugby league, motorsport, ice hockey and more.
FreeSports is the sister channel of Premier Sports, a pay TV channel and is another sign that linear TV is still seen as a strong and stable proposition. An end to hostilities?
BT will also be able to sell Now TV subscription passes directly to its own customers. On the flip side, Sky will be able to sell the BT Sport channels directly to its satellite customers. This distribution arrangement is anticipated to launch in early This could mean that there is less rivalry for viewers between the two networks.
While both are undoubtedly going to continue to compete for sports rights, the jeopardy for not acquiring or not holding onto rights may be relieved a little if the platforms can still show that content.