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Thread: Pubs v Premier League - FA Football on Satellite TV decision tomorrow??

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    Pubs v Premier League - FA Football on Satellite TV decision tomorrow??

    In the 19 years since the formation of the Premier League, the value of the competition's television rights has gone from £304m to a staggering £3.2bn.

    It is one of the country's most successful exports and whenever Prime Minister David Cameron goes on trade missions abroad, as he did to Russia last month; he often takes chief executive Richard Scudamore with him as an example of a thriving British business.

    And yet on Tuesday the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will deliver a ruling which could deal the League and its lucrative TV rights model a major blow.

    Unlikely though it might seem, the case all centres on a Portsmouth pub, the Red, White and Blue, and its landlady, Karen Murphy. She was fined back in 2006 for showing her customers live Premier League matches accessed via a Greek service and an illegal decoder.

    The Premier League states UK citizens should only be able to watch live matches through Sky and, to a lesser extent, ESPN. For pubs the cost of screening matches is high, making it attractive for them to look for cheaper alternatives.

    Mrs Murphy appealed against the decision saying that the European Union's laws on the free movement of trade and services inside the single market meant she should be entitled to buy her live football from any European country she should choose.

    In March, a non-binding opinion from the ECJ's advocate general Juliane Kokot seemed to back her argument. Kokot stated that broadcasters cannot stop customers using cheaper foreign satellite TV services.

    There is no guarantee that the court will follow that opinion tomorrow. But even senior Premier League sources admit it is unlikely that it will go against it.

    So what does this potentially mean to the League and Sky, whose business model is so reliant on live top flight football?

    The first thing to say is that tomorrow's decision is unlikely to be clear cut. Although the Kokot advice was interpreted as a potential setback for the League's case, the League argues it was much more complicated than that.

    And even if the court delivers a clear judgment, it is only guidance for the UK High Court, which must then decide whether to rubber stamp its findings.

    The next point to make is that the impact on the League's rights in Europe is likely to be negligible. Of the £1.4bn it earns from selling its rights abroad, just £130m, less than 10 per cent, comes from Europe.

    The big problem is a free for all in the UK market could seriously damage Sky's exclusivity for which it pays £1.8bn over the three years 2010-2013. Why would Sky continue to pay that money - money which underpins clubs' vast spending on players' wages and salaries every year - if foreign broadcasters are given the freedom to undercut them.

    In response to such a verdict Sky might feel the need to lower their prices and therefore pay less to the League for its rights. That could have a massive knock-on effect on clubs who are already stretched.

    However the League and its principal adviser on TV rights David Kogan have become adept at hurdling obstacles put in their path by regulators.

    In the event of a ruling which backs Mrs Murphy's appeal, the League is likely to create one Europe-wide live TV rights package which Sky or another pan-European broadcaster could buy for the same sort of money Sky currently pay, if not more. They could then either show it on the continent themselves or sub licence to foreign TV companies.

    The League, which wants to start its latest auction for the 2013-2016 package before the end of the season, is therefore confident that whatever the outcome tomorrow, its business model will continue to thrive.

    But the impact on smaller sports could be significant as the markets for their rights will shrink. And the effect on other creative sectors like the film industry, which also sells exclusive content territory by territory, could be devastating.

    Looking a bit further ahead the much bigger danger for football, indeed all sports, is the rapid blurring of the lines between distribution and access to live sport.

    Rights holders used to be able to sell rights platform by platform - TV, radio, online, mobile and so on. But it's already difficult to tell the difference between a traditional TV and an iPad.

    That will only become more blurred in the future and in response it has become necessary for rights holders to develop time sensitive packages with media companies now bidding for live, near live, highlights and archive rights.

    For the Premier League and other big rights holders protecting those in the face of illegal streaming of matches from pirate websites is a far bigger threat than the ECJ's ruling tomorrow.

    source: bbc.co.uk/blogs/davidbond/2011/10/pubs_v_premier_league.html
    Last edited by satandpcguy; 4th October 2011 at 10:04 PM.
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    Premier League braced for ruling of Europe's top court over TV rights

    Premier League braced for ruling of Europe's top court over TV rights

    Premier League lawyers and club chairmen are nervously awaiting the ruling on Tuesday of Europe's highest court in a case that threatens to fundamentally rewrite the TV rights model that has led to a 20-year revenue boom.

    The latest twist will be delivered on Tuesday in a long-running and high-profile case that has seen a Portsmouth landlady take all the way to the European court of justice her defence of her right to show Premier League matches at 3pm on a Saturday, having bought a subscription from a Greek broadcaster.

    As soon as one of the eight advocate generals of the ECJ in February advised that the Premier League selling its rights on a territory-by-territory basis represented a "serious impairment of freedom to provide services", the chief executive, Richard Scudamore, convened a team to examine every possible scenario.

    In the short term, the decision could allow pubs to show matches on a Saturday at 3pm, which the football authorities have long argued would result in lower league attendances. It could also allow consumers to buy cheaper subscriptions from continental providers, assuming they had the correct kit, in preference to Sky.

    In the longer term that would probably force the Premier League to sell its rights on a pan-European basis to a single media group – a scenario that could impact on its revenues and throw up its own European competition issues.

    The Portsmouth landlady Karen Murphy, and the defendants in a parallel civil case involving an importer of cards from overseas, have argued that being prevented from buying in cheaper football from overseas is incompatible with EU law.

    Premier League insiders believe that if the eventual consequence, after the ECJ verdict is passed back down to the high court for interpretation under UK law, is a requirement to sell rights on a pan-European basis there will be a significant but not catastrophic impact on its overseas revenues.

    The prospect of potentially shattering the 3pm window rule could be dealt with, they believe, by simply not selling Saturday matches to broadcasters overseas.

    Under its current rights deal, the Premier League realised a total of around £3.5bn. Of that, £1.4bn came from overseas and an estimated £350m-£400m from the European territories that will be affected by the ruling.

    One option would be to auction its rights on a pan-European basis in the hope of creating competition between the biggest media companies, including BSkyB, and hoping that continued global growth could help mitigate any downside in Europe.

    But the huge uncertainty created by the case is far from ideal at a time when the Premier League would usually be planning its next rights auction process.

    After Tuesday's ruling the case could take many months more to make its way through the legal process and the Premier League may be forced to plough ahead with its tender despite the huge uncertainty. The current round of contracts expires at the end of next season.

    However the Premier League, which has argued that the opinion of advocate general Juliane Kokott is flawed and unfair, would also point out that it has repeatedly faced regulatory challenges to its business model that have not stemmed its upward revenue trajectory.

    source: guardian.co.uk/football/2011/oct/03/premier-league-court-tv-rights
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  3. #3
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    Premier League fans can buy cheap foreign TV coverage, EU rules

    Football fans will potentially be able to watch cut-price Premier League matches, after the European Union's highest court ruled on Tuesday that it is not illegal for individuals to buy set-top box decoder cards from foreign broadcasters.


    The European court of justice ruled that the FA Premier League cannot stop individuals from seeking better deals for TV sports subscriptions than that offered by BSkyB – which paid more than £1bn for the UK broadcast rights for Premier League matches – from foreign broadcasters.


    The ECJ said attempting to prohibit the "import, sale or use of foreign decoder cards is contrary to the freedom to provide services and cannot be justified either in light of the objective of protecting intellectual property rights or by the objective of encouraging the public to attend football stadiums".


    However, the court ruled against the bid by Karen Murphy, the landlady of the Red, White and Blue pub in Portsmouth, to be allowed to use a Greek decoder card to show live Premier League matches to pubgoers at much cheaper rates than BSkyB charges commercial premises in the UK on copyright grounds.


    The ECJ said the transmission in a pub is a "communication to the public", which means that without the permission of the Premier League Murphy is in breach of the copyright directive. This directive would not stop individuals buying foreign decoder cards for domestic use.


    However, the ECJ said live match coverage itself was not covered by copyright protection, although the Premier League could claim ownership of FAPL-branded opening video sequences, theme music, on-screen graphics and highlights of previous matches.


    This means that as long as the FAPL and BSkyB ensure that match coverage includes enough copyright elements pubs will not be allowed to show foreign broadcasts.


    The Premier League, which sells TV rights exclusively to broadcasters across Europe on a territory-by-territory basis, has been clamping down on British pubs buying in live coverage from foreign broadcasters.


    The ECJ ruling could potentially have a huge impact on the way BSkyB and other UK and European broadcasters buy rights to sport, films and foreign TV shows. Sky's share price was down by just over 3% to 635.50p at about 9.20am on Tuesday, as the City reacted to the European ruling.


    BSkyB makes about £200m a year in revenue from selling subscriptions to pubs and other commercial premises.


    The broadcaster has about 44,000 pub, club and office subscribers. It is thought that pub owners like Murphy pay about £1,000 a month for a BSkyB subscription. Murphy slashed these costs by buying a Greek decoder card and a subscription to Nova reportedly at a cost of about £800 a year.


    "This is a clear statement from Europe that intellectual property rights cannot be relied upon to fragment the market and charge different prices in different EU countries for the same content," said Toby Headdon, an intellectual property lawyer at Berwin Leighton Paisner. "The decision looks set to change the licensing landscape in Europe, not just for football broadcasts but potentially for other content such as films and music."


    The ECJ also opened the door for the dismantling of the FAPL's country-specific sports rights regime, stating that such a system of selling matches to broadcasters is "irreconcilable" with the aim of EU law to create one internal market.


    "Payment by the television stations of a premium in order to ensure themselves absolute territorial exclusivity goes beyond what is necessary to ensure the right holders appropriate remuneration," the ECJ said in its ruling. "Such a practice may result in artificial price differences between the partitioned national markets. Such partitioning and such an artificial price difference are irreconcilable with the fundamental aim of the treaty, which is completion of the internal market."


    The ruling could force the FAPL to look to sell its broadcast rights as a pan-European TV deal, most probably to Sky, although it could look to limit sales to some European markets.


    The Premier League will make more than £1.6bn in the UK from its current three-year deal with BSkyB and has a separate deal in this country for live match coverage with ESPN, along with a highlights deal with the BBC for Match of the Day.


    The Premier League is believed to have made well in excess of £1bn in TV deals outside the UK for rights covering 2010 to 2013, almost double the £625m made under the previous deal period, with the popularity of the top English division booming in territories including the Middle East, north Africa, Hong Kong and Singapore.


    No figures are given for Europe, but it is understood that France, Scandinavia and Germany are the most lucrative markets for Premier League rights.


    The Premier League said in a statement: "The areas of law involved are complicated and necessarily we will take our time to digest and understand the full meaning of the judgment and how it might influence the future sale of Premier League audio-visual rights in the European Economic Area.


    "We are pleased that the judgment makes it clear that the screening in a pub of football-match broadcasts containing protected works requires the Premier League's authorisation. Currently only Sky and ESPN are authorised by the Premier League to make such broadcasts.


    "The Premier League will continue to sell its audio-visual rights in a way that best meets the needs of our fans across Europe and the broadcast markets that serve them but is also compatible with European Law."


    A BSkyB spokesman said: "This is a case about the licensing arrangements of bodies like the Premier League. It will have implications for how rights are sold across Europe in future, which we are considering. As a broadcaster, it will remain our aim to secure high-quality content for our customers based on the rights available to us."

    The UK high court of justice will now make the final decision applying this ruling to the actual case of Karen Murphy, but the ECJ's decision is final and cannot be appealed against.


    Europe's commissioner for the digital agenda, Neelie Kroes, vowed to sort out confusion surrounding cross-border access to film, music and pay-per-view football games.


    In a speech prepared before the verdict backing Murphy, she told a thinktank audience that "invisible barriers" remained in the distance-selling of "digital goods".


    She went on: "If I can buy a music CD online from a company in the Netherlands and have it posted to me here in Belgium, why can't I buy a digital download from the same company?


    "If I can watch my local team's football matches using online pay-per-view in one member state, why not in 27?


    "This situation does not make much sense to the man on the street. To be honest, it is not a situation that makes much sense to me. And we need to fix it."

    source: guardian.co.uk/media/2011/oct/04/premier-league-tv-coverage
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  4. #4
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    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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    Analysis: pub landlady v Premier League

    Battle over right to screen football matches in pubs has no winners, despite appearances
    'Lose-lose" was how the European court of justice described its ruling this morning in the unlikely battle between an ordinary Portsmouth publican and the gold-plated might of the Premier League. But, in the end, there had to be a winner, and it was not going to be Karen Murphy from the hopefully named Red, White and Blue.

    The first loser, according to the court, was the Premier League. Astonishingly, the ECJ delivered a hammer blow to the notion that Premier League broadcast rights can be sold on a country-by-country basis within the EU, the simple basis on which television has operated since the medium was invented. It ruled that the "system of licences for the broadcasting of football matches which grants broadcasters territorial exclusivity" was nothing short of being "contrary to EU law".

    So, the first part of the ruling clearly allows, determined members of the public to abandon Sky and switch to another European satellite broadcaster. Many, including Nova from Greece, the broadcaster once optimistically used by Murphy, before all this court case started, have the rights to show all 380 Premier League games a year, 3pm kick-offs and all, with English commentary. Immigrants and expats have been doing this for years: many Britons in France have Sky subscriptions, while housing estates around Britain are festooned with white satellite dishes hooked up to Greek or Portuguese services – although Nova, at £44.71 a month is actually more expensive than Sky Sports, which starts at £40, the kind of figure likely to dampen demand.

    Suddenly, the Premier League has just lost the basis upon which it, and every other sports body, has generated income for years. Its TV rights are worth nearly £500m a year internationally, with just over £100m of that coming from Europe – which compares with the £600m a year it generates from Sky and ESPN in the UK. Nor is the ruling just about sport: it could affect the way all television programmes are sold across Europe – films, TV shows and any other content. So worried, indeed had the League been about the prospect that Richard Scudamore, its chief executive, had already begun to draw up a contingency plan. His thinking was that the next time the League would have to sell its rights on a pan European basis, to just one broadcaster, which would have been almost certainly Sky.

    Yet, it didn't take long before the league realised it might not have to take such a drastic measure. The second of the ECJ's losers on Tuesday was Murphy herself. On the face of it her case was reasonable – Sky, she said, wants to charge publicans like her "£800 a month" to show football, a level she couldn't afford, which is why she bought a consumer subscription to Nova in the first place. Faced with the question of whether Sky be allowed to charge so much, - the business is worth an estimated £200m a year - the European court chose to side with the Murdoch-affiliated broadcaster.


    The ECJ concluded that Murphy and any publican like her would be breaching the copyright of the Premier League, by going Greek, so to speak. Although the judges were clear that there can be no copyright in live coverage of the football match itself, there is copyright in "the opening video sequence or the Premier League anthem" or even the league's logo. Only the league can decide whether you have the right to transmit those to a paying audience, and the number of publicans who have been prosecuted by the League for using foreign satellite services will testify that the answer from the League will be no.

    Indeed, the sanguine Premier League was already noting that it will be easy to stop publicans using its footage without permission by ensuring that its logo is on screen all the time, or its theme music played every time a replay is aired. It took comfort in the fact that the European court, in effect, distinguished between "private and commercial use" – and most likely, the football body will carry on selling its television rights as before. In truth, the league's real problem is with internet piracy – while it knows that few people want to sign up to a foreign broadcaster. Otherwise, for all the talk of lose-lose, it is the established powers of football, the Premier League and BSkyB, that won.

    source: guardian.co.uk/media/2011/oct/04/analysis-pub-premier-league-rights
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