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Sour grapes at Sky TV and price rises at BT

Managing director Barney Francis suggests BT have overspent wildly by revealing not a single European game has appeared in Sky’s top 40 matches

The managing director of Sky Sports has sought to spoil BT Sport’s big Champions League launch by revealing ratings for the competition had plummeted since 2010.

Barney Francis said the last five seasons had witnessed a 36 per cent drop in viewership of Europe’s premier club competition on Sky, which has lost the rights to it from this summer.
That was after BT blew it out of the water by paying £897 million for all Uefa club football for the next three years.

But, ahead of the official launch of its coverage on Tuesday, Francis suggested BT had bought a dud.
“We’re hard at work preparing for a new season where TV sport itself will be in the spotlight as the Uefa Champions League moves to BT after many years on Sky Sports and ITV,” he wrote in his sky.com blog.

“We’re proud of the high standards that our production teams have set in the Champions League.
“While we have enjoyed bringing the competition to customers, there is no doubt that Sky Sports remains the unrivalled choice for sports fans. Not just next year, but for years to come.

“In football, it’s the intense rivalry of our domestic competitions that matters most to customers. You only have to look at the viewing figures to see the evidence.

“Over the last five seasons, we have seen Champions League audiences fall 36%. Last season, we saw our lowest ever average match audience and not a single European game appeared in our top 40 football matches. Overall, Champions League accounts for just 2.5% of Sky Sports viewing, while the Premier League is seven times bigger.

“Meanwhile, football fans continue to show an overwhelming preference for our Premier League coverage. Once again, 49 of the top 50 most watched Premier League matches were on Sky Sports last season.

“Success in the recent Premier League auction means we’ll show the matches that matter for at least four more years. From 2016, we will have even more games with 126 live fixtures, up from 116.

“That’s three times more than any other broadcaster. We’ll also have more first picks of the best matches and for the first time, Friday night games. We’ll show every club live at least four times and, if you are a fan of one of the top four clubs, then you’ll see them around 20 times a season on Sky Sports.

“While there was much speculation a couple of years ago about the potential impact of competition, we have gone from strength to strength. In the two years since the launch of BT’s sports channel, Sky’s revenue in the UK and Ireland has grown by 11% and we recently reported our highest customer growth for 11 years.

“I can happily say we have never been in better shape.”

But on the flip side there is more bad news for consumers of TV Football

BT’s broadband customers have been getting BT Sport with no extra charge, but that looks like it is all about to change, with a £5 fee set to be introduced.

Of course, this is BT trying to claw back some money after throwing it around for football rights. Sky, of course, coughed up £1.4bn for Premier League rights, which saw BT throwing £320 million per season, at it.

Plans have been leaked and it looks like BT’s customers will soon have to pay a little extra, which is particularly galling if you consider that some of the money will end up in Robbie Savage’s pocket – is there no justice in the world?

It isn’t clear if this money will be a blanket charge for all those wanting to watch BT Sports, or whether it’ll be for a premium service that includes the UEFA Champions League and Europa League matches, which of course, BT won the rights for last year.

BT aren’t commenting on the rumours, saying that they will be revealing their plans “in due course”. That means they definitely want to announce something, and with money to make back, it looks like a price rise for those who want in.

Ultimately this means the consumer is going to be paying even more money if they want to to see all the club tournaments next season. Subscriptions for Sky, BT Sport (even if you are a BT Broadband customer) plus an additional Champions League surcharge not to mention that the Sky subscription has increased therefore you are getting less for more means I honestly think this season will be the season where the bubble bursts for TV subscriptions and people say “enough and enough”. When all the charges are taken into account you could be looking at £1o0 per month for all the necessary subscriptions, that’s £1200 a year, it would be cheaper just go get a season ticket and even throw in a few away days for good measure as well.

While streaming will never be the perfect replacement the technology and quality seems to be ever improving and if you were to purchase an android box and install the NBC American feeds it also makes any satellite subscription near obsolete. I’ve been a Sky customer for all of my adult life (I’m 31 now and have been a subscriber since 2002) and have had BT Sport since it’s inception but I think without sounding tight and when you actually equate it to an annual cost, £1200 can be spent on far better things especially when an alternative can be found for almost free. It seems as if going Sky high will be too much for Football fans this season, the big question is have we reached the peak in terms of Football TV Money and have the TV companies scored a massive own goal?

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