There is no doubting that since the inception of the Premier League back in 1992 the landscape of English football has changed dramatically. Ever since BSkyB won the inaugural contract to screen the new competition’s matches, the game has evidently gone from strength to strength.
The breakaway from the English Football League has seen a rise in interest from fans both domestically and abroad. This, in turn, has created not only a televisual boom but a gambling one also, with companies such as Sportsbet taking thousands of bets on the Premier League per week and that doesn’t look to stop, as people rush to bet on 8/13 Manchester City for next year.
And although BSkyB, the media juggernaut which is owned by Rupert Murdoch no longer has a monopoly on screening English top-flight matches, this does not mean that their influence has been diminished in any way. Whereas there was just one company screening all the matches, they now share the rights with the relative upstart BT Sport.
BT Sport are the third company to have been awarded a share of the Premier League deal with BSkyB and where Setanta and ESPN failed due to a mixture of either overpaying or not managing to grow their subscriber base accordingly, BT Sport have managed to get a sizeable foothold in the UK sporting rights market.
This was no less evident than when the latest Premier League TV deal was announced and again the status quo was continued, as both BSkyB and BT Sport won the rights to show matches, the former winning four packages while the latter had to make do with just the one.
The five packages were sold via an auction that was overseen by the league’s chief executive Richard Scudamore and raised an eye-watering £4.464bn. However, this figure was still £700m lower than the last deals that were made back in 2015.
This is something that can be explained by the fact that there are still two rights packages that are left unsold. Had they also been sold in the recent auction, the final figure would have been a lot closer to the £5.1bn that was raised three years ago.
There was a lot of talk beforehand that this deal was going to see a seismic change in the way football fans in the UK would have to watch their football. Companies such as Facebook, Netflix and Amazon were touted as ready to throw their hats in the ring and make a bid for live English football.
However, for all the conjecture that there was going to be multiple companies involved, it never materialised. The ideal scenario for Richard Scudamore and his colleagues would be a bidding war that then drives the price up even further.
It seems, though, that the three American media giants are still happy to wait patiently for the next cycle of television rights to become available. In doing so, it allows them to get their infrastructure ready to be able to deal with what would undoubtedly be an influx of new customers ready to use their respective platforms.
But does the Premier League need the interest from these American companies in order to keep driving up the money it receives? The fact that two rights bundles are left unsold at the time of writing would perhaps indicate that this is the case.
There is no doubting that the creation of a new top division in England has been one of the biggest success stories in recent times on both a sporting and marketing front – at the same time, though, one must wonder how much more it can expand before there is a natural contraction.
Perhaps this is something that we are already witnessing. That said, even if this is the case, there will not be too many concerns due to the fact that any decrease in domestic rights can be offset by the fact that global sales continue to increase.
Many consider the Premier League as the best league in the world – a point that is strongly reinforced by the fact that there is an almost insatiable demand for the product in all corners of the globe, with over 200 countries showing live matches at any one time.
And it is this revenue that allows the league to grow with each TV deal that is signed off. So, although the money spent in the UK has tailed off ever so slightly, this does not mean that the 20 teams in the division will be feeling the financial pinch anytime soon.
No one would have envisaged the beautiful game moving behind a paywall 26 years ago and it could well be that we are due another step change in the world of TV rights somewhere down the line. If that is the case, then the winners won’t be on the pitch; it will be the Premier League themselves.