BBC BLOGS - Sport Editors
« Previous | Main | Next »

Free Sport

Roger Mosey | 12:03 UK time, Saturday, 6 May 2006

A lot of comment this morning about the new Premier League rights deal, which will bring in £1.706 billion over three years. Something of a tribute to the business skills of the FAPL, we reckon...

But it prompts some thoughts about balance within the sports broadcasting market. The explosion of choice in recent years is a good thing - and it was inevitable that some sport would move to subscription channels. (And the Premier League has actually never been live on free-to-air.)

At the BBC we're pleased we still have a strong portfolio with the TV events that bring the nation together like the World Cup and the Olympics; and unbeatable support from our radio and online services.

But there are a couple of points that need to be made about the future.

First, there's a seductive argument that the British government's listed events won't matter when we're all in a digital world - that there'll no longer be a need for major sporting moments to be guaranteed for the whole of the population.

But that argument is wrong...

The divide is not between terrestrial and digital: it's about free-to-air TV compared with Pay TV. BBC One will still be universally available after analogue switch-off and you don't have to pay anything extra for events on the big public service channels - while subscription TV will still need an extra £400 or more each year.

That's a barrier to people on low incomes, but it's also a barrier to casual viewers: an exciting event on BBC One or the other free-to-air channels will bring in people who don't have the inclination to subscribe to a specialist channel for a whole year.

And that leads to the second point. Being seen by the maximum number of pople is good for the health of a sport, which is why it's sad that cricket now won't be seen live on terrestrial TV until 2010 at the earliest. Not a single wicket or boundary will be available live on a major channel - and that's an interesting contrast with football.

Even with the new live Premier League deal, there is a decent amount of football on free channels. The World Cup will be on the BBC and ITV; the FA Cup and England internationals are on the BBC (as part of a shared deal with Sky); the Champions League is shared by ITV and Sky; and there will sometimes be decent matches on Channel Five.

This kind of balance is good for consumers - and, we believe, it's good for the sport. In other words, there are two models.

One in which pay operators completely rule the universe and blow free-to-air broacasters out of the water by paying massive premiums for exclusivity as happened with cricket; or the other in which pay operators run good businesses and make healthy profits, but co-exist with a range of other services and offer the widest possible choice to consumers.

The latter is the world we're in at the moment in most sports, and we think that should be the model for the future too.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.