HomeUncategorizedPremier League fans can buy cheap foreign TV coverage, EU rules   


Premier League fans can buy cheap foreign TV coverage, EU rules — 1 Comment

  1. Who won the case?

    It’s probably fair to describe it as a game of two halves: the European court of justice said it was against EU law to restrict customers to watching paid-for TV only through decoders bought in their home country, but said a pub landlady, Karen Murphy, could not continue to show games through a Greek channel on copyright grounds.

    Is is good news or bad news for consumers?

    If you’re an individual who wants to watch paid-for TV in the comfort of your own home, you should be over the moon. You can now shop around across Europe, and the judgment says legislation which prohibits the import or sale of foreign decoder cards “is contrary to the freedom to provide services and cannot be justified”, so you may one day be able to buy them in the UK.

    That said, for the average household Sky still may not be too bad a deal. While it was considerably cheaper for Murphy to buy the Greek channel Nova to show in her pub, for individuals the channels charges roughly the same – Sky is advertising its sports package for £40 a month and movies for £46.25 a month; Nova is charging €52.20 (£44.71) a month for sports and €51.68 (£44.26) for movies.

    What are the implications of the decision?
    On the face of it, anyone in the UK should now be able to buy decoders to watch matches at any time. That could lead to the Premier League being forced to sell their TV rights in one giant pan-European package.

    What else can the Premier League do?

    There is a still a long way to go in the legal battles. They could also introduce their own Premier League subscription TV channel, or maintain sales on a country-by-country basis but exclude countries such as Greece who do not pay very much and yet are providing cheap alternatives to Sky for pubs and clubs.

    Will it be cheaper for the man in the street.

    No – the saving is really for pubs. Greek station Nova charges £45 per month for sports, much the same as Sky for non-commercial consumers, and there is the cost of the equipment too.

    Was the ECJ decision a completely clear-cut ruling?
    No. The ECJ also stated that although the matches could not be subject to copyright, the Premier League’s anthem and ‘various graphics’ could be.

    It allows the Premier League to argue in court that all logos shown during matches are their copyright, and therefore they have to give permission to the likes of Murphy for live football to be shown.

    What will it mean in future?

    It could result in a pan-European market for rights as sports bodies seek to mitigate the impact of the ruling. That could be more problematic for the likes of Uefa (who rely on extracting maximum value from every local market) than the Premier League (which are keen, above all, to protect their domestic revenue). There are also major issues for everyone from pay-TV giants from BSkyB to Hollywood film studios and homegrown TV production companies.

    Did it all go Murphy’s way?
    No, far from it. In a potentially significant move the ECJ also ruled that while beaming in the matches themselves from overseas did not breach the Premier League’s copyright, broadcasting the Premier League’s “anthem” (can anybody hum it?), graphics and build up without its permission did amount to a breach. Those annoying pre-match Premier League and Champions League anthems and rituals that you thought were just designed to build the atmosphere? Turns out they were brand protection tools.

    How could rights holders use this to their advantage?

    It’s early days, but one obvious route for rights holders would be to force their TV partners to include more copyrighted elements throughout the broadcast – playing music when goals are scored, for example, or mandating specific graphics throughout the broadcast. In this way, the Premier League and other rights holders could help protect their business in pubs and clubs.

    What about other sports bodies?

    The issues for, say, Uefa are more complex – and potentially more damaging – still. It makes its money by extracting the maximum value from each local market for Champions League rights. Therefore it probably wouldn’t make economic sense to sell on a pan-European basis. It will have to work out if the potential impact on rights values (caused by consumers potentially buying cheaper from abroad) is greater than the hit they will take if they sell pan-European.

    What does it mean for Sky?

    Analysts believe the impact on Sky’s business is unlikely to be significant. In reality, they think it unlikely that a flood of subscribers will cancel their contracts in order to swap their Sky box for a Greek one. However, if Sky was forced to go down the route of buying the rights on a pan-European basis and potentially sub-licensing some of them in certain territories – while also ensuring that none of those licensees could undercut it – it would make its business model significantly more complicated. But it should also be noted that the Premier League and Sky have survived a series of regulatory challenges to their symbiotic relationship over the past two decades and none have dented their mutually dependent growth.

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