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‘The crown jewels of UK sports broadcasting is back’: The Premier League returns

Analyst Paolo Pescatore talks to TVBEurope about the return of the Premier League

As football fans rejoice at the return of Premier League after its enforced three month hiatus, pay-TV broadcasters have been told to think outside the box in order to keep the expected bump in subscriptions.

Of the 92 remaining games, Sky Sports will broadcast 64 matches, making 25 of them available free-to-air via its Pick TV channel, BT Sport has the rights to 20 games, Amazon four, and the BBC will broadcast four matches, the first time it has shown live Premier League football.

Tech, media and telco analyst Paolo Pescatore tells TVBEurope that while in theory pay-TV providers will expect to see an increase in subscriptions, the reality will be somewhat different. “In some cases, it will be a return to the norm for most viewers who already have sports as part of a TV bundle,” he says. “Therefore, expect subscriptions to remain constant with maybe a marginal uplift. Arguably, usage will be tricky to gauge and might even see a decline. As lockdown measures ease up, users will be itching to get out to see loved ones and friends given the lovely weather. Therefore, we should be braced for overall usage to decline. Lets not forget more games will be on our screens. That’s why the novel tech innovations will help drive engagement (especially features around highlights).”

“Viewers will have the option to select different features. Fans will have more control and be able to participate with (and in) the match. The integration of community features will resonate with fans as it will allow them to watch a match together (akin to being at the match or down the pub),” he continues.

Pescatore adds that arguably pay-TV operators will see be a bigger increase in new sports subscribers next season. “This will be driven by games still being played behind close doors. The challenging and disruptive times that we are living in lead to creative opportunities. On this basis, providers should strongly think outside of the box. Why not offer fans a special club pass, or exclusive content tailored to their club?”

Sky’s decision to broadcast almost half of its matches on an FTA channel is “a nice gesture,” says Pescatore. “It is great to see all key stakeholders work closely in thinking outside of the box. Making more games available on a free to air basis (as well as the 3pm slot on a Saturday) gives the rights holder food for thought with future rights auction.”

Will broadcasters be in a stronger position because of coronavirus when it comes to negotiating the next round of Premier League rights? Pescatore believes all factors are in play: “Fundamentally, the Premier League needs to carefully consider restructuring the whole thing (in order to maximise the value of its prized asset). Certainly, the overall value will continue to decline in light of the current market dynamics and the competitive landscape.”

Ultimately, broadcasters will be delighted to see the crown jewels of UK sports broadcasting back on their airwaves, says Pescatore. “Sport is one of the few genres (along with news) that drives linear TV, engagement and more importantly revenue.”