Someone once told me that when running a business where you have to buy in a service, you don’t necessarily take the cheapest bid that comes in. You have to look for other factors such as can the provider deliver the service you want, when you want, to a high standard? It’s all about value for money.
Similarly, when you run a business that relies on other people to sell your product for you, you want to choose the company that will deliver in such a way that it best represents your product.
Well, that’s advice that the FA and Premier League should heed for when they sell their football rights.
In 2002 the subscription channel ITV digital collapsed, meaning that all league clubs faced a huge financial shortfall, many went into administration as a direct result.
Setanta Sports currently shows a third of all live Premier League games at a cost of £392 million and also won the rights to jointly show, with ITV, England internationals and FA Cup games.
Setanta were hailed as competition to Sky, who used to monopolise the live sports market. Setanta shows a whole range of sports and has paid astronomical fees for the rights to show them. The plan was that the money would be raised through subscription, as Setanta is a subscription channel to Sky and Freeview customers. However, many viewers found the Setanta picture of poor quality, the customer services to be unhelpful and complained about rising subscription fees.
When the rights came up for renewal last year Setanta lost one of the packages they currently show, meaning they will only show 23 live games from the 2010/11 season. This has led to a drop in subscribers and Setanta are reportedly in trouble.
They have had to renegotiate TV rights right across the board with the SPL recently voting to allow Setanta to scale down the cost of their TV rights from 2010. They have deferred payments with the Premier League who say they are fine with that so long as they are paid in full. Setanta’s share of the England/FA Cup deal is £150m and though the FA showed a bit of sense by getting a large proportion of the money up front, they are still owed a lot of money. Setanta were late with a £10m payment in March and some in the FA are worried that they may not be able to pay, particularly as the FA is somehow in financial trouble.
ITV has also asked to renegotiate contracts with both the FA and UEFA, as ITV are one of the broadcasters of the Champions League.
The man who negotiated the Setanta/ITV contract was Brian Barwick, who was also the Chief Executive of ITV Digital. To get extra money he froze Sky and the BBC out of negotiations, which is surely a huge mistake.
Apart from the financials, I have a huge problem with the way ITV presents football. Last night’s game between Man Utd and Arsenal was the most biased commentary I have ever heard. Commentator Clive Tyldesley was shockingly pro-Man United (I must admit, he was very Pro-Liverpool in the game against Chelsea too). He came out with helpful ideas such as the referee should stop the game after 80 minutes and squealed with pleasure every time Rooney or Ronaldo touched the ball. He also has an amazing knack of being able to compare anything to Man United’s 1999 Champions League final win. You also often get inflicted with David Pleat who is seemingly unable to pronounce players names (such as Yossi Benny Noon and Jose Boss Swinger) or Jim Beglin who specialises in pointing out the obvious. Also, they are sickeningly pro-English clubs; this also applies for the England team.
In the studio they have terrible pundits who provide tired analysis mixed with complete waffle. Andy Townsend is the main analyst and he is appalling. The same goes for Robbie Earle. If you are over 5 years old and have watched more than one football match in your life you will not learn anything from those two.
ITV used to show the highlights of the Premier League and it was embarrassing. It didn’t show all that much action from the games, filling its time with interviews and awful punditry but the worst horror was the ‘tactics truck’, a truly stupid gimmick where Andy Townsend sat in a truck outside a ground and did some pretty poor analysis of a game.
ITV this season started showing FA Cup games and managed to miss the winning goal in the Everton v Liverpool game by cutting to an advert. In the same game they also managed to miss Lucas being sent-off as they were showing close-ups of other players. This is what a lot of viewers all around the country saw.
[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NX4Ck_eWLYs"]YouTube - ITV Everton v Liverpool Coverage[/ame]
They have also covered games with fixed camera positions meaning they have often lost the ball in mid-flight and adverse weather has hampered picture quality. They have also edited their highlights programmes badly where genuine shocks have been overlooked for highlights of games broadcast live earlier that day.
The FA and Premier League have raked in huge amounts of money by selling their TV rights, but it seems that they and most importantly, the viewing public, are paying a terrible price..