A number of weeks ago I wrote about the history of TV Rights in the Premier League. Here's another piece that looks at something similar.
For the first time since the Champions League was launched in 1992 it is not available on free-to-air TV in Great Britain. This is due to the fact that in November 2013 subscription channel BT Sport won the exclusive right to screen live matches from 2015 to 2018.
Those familiar with the competition will know that free-to-air British broadcaster ITV hosted live coverage of the inaugural competition, and continued this exclusively up until 2003. That year, subscription channel Sky Sports came on board, and both channels shared the games. However, from 1992 until 2015, licence fee payers in the UK were guaranteed to see at least one match per round on free-to-air TV, even with the arrival of Sky Sports.
2015 sees a changing of the guard. The familiar voices of Clive Tyldesley, and more often than not Andy Townsend, who commentated on games for ITV, are gone from the air waves. What a pity for football-loving licence fee payers in Britain.
In Ireland we are more fortunate. TV viewers are insulated from broadcast competition somewhat. Rights for the Champions League continue to be shared by two free-to-air broadcasters; state owned RTE and independent TV3. The state broadcaster screens live action on Wednesdays, while TV3 show matches on Tuesdays. This means Irish licence fee payers get to see two matches per round over the course of the competition, a total of twenty-five live games on free-to-air TV. That's 25 more than people living in Great Britain. The licence fee in Ireland currently costs €160. So that’s €6.40 per match.
British customers aren't so lucky. BT Sport subscription is now required to watch the live Champions League games. The cost of this is a little complex and depends on whether you are a current BT Sport customer, BT Broadband subscriber, Sky TV customer or a new customer. For the purposes of this we’ll assume one is a new customer. The additional cost BT Sport is £5 or €6.78 per month for a new customer. That’s a total cost of just above €61. The additional cost allows one watch all 126 games in the competition in Great Britain. The current cost of a UK television licence is £145 (€197.61). That's a total cost of €258.63. Per match, this breaks down to about €2 per game.
However, given that one can’t watch more than one game at a time, the cost per game is above €10. That’s roughly an extra €4 per match to the British customer. Of course, this €4 does provide choice, but given that the free-to-air game in Ireland is often the “best game on paper”, is the choice required? I wonder would British customers prefer a return to the old system?
Long live free-to-air Champions League!
* Thanks to Ed Valentine (based in Leeds) for an update on this. BT Sport Showcase will show a minimum of 12 games throughout the competition on free to air TV including the Final. Things a bit better than I thought...