The English Premier League released details of the auction of live broadcast rights for the top-flight English football league for 2019-22. While BT Sport and Sky Sports are expected to be the main participants, there is mounting speculation that an internet player may also make an appearance in the contest.

  • 200 live games a season up for grabs.
  • The Premier League has tinkered with timeslots in the hope of maintaining current levels of spending, which saw an outlay of more than £5bn last time out.
  • Rumours of probable bid from Amazon, but partnership with an established broadcaster may prove more likely.

In December 2017, the Premier League unveiled the details of the live broadcast rights it is offering UK broadcasters for the three seasons over the 2019-22 period. The tender sees the number of live games shown each season increase by 42 games to 200 out of a total 380 matches.

The current three-season rights package collectively cost BT and Sky £5.1bn. While there are doubts that the sums that broadcasters are willing to pay will continue to increase — particularly in the wake of the recent détente between the rivals on wholesaling each other’s channels — the Premier League is hoping that the additional games and prospect of a prime time Saturday evening spot may help maintain spending.

No single buyer will be allowed to acquire more than 148 matches per season and the Invitation to Tender from the Premier League breaks the rights up into seven discrete packages, as detailed in Table 2.

This restriction means that no broadcaster could completely dominate the entire weekend broadcasting schedule in packages A-E. However, it will be possible for a bidder to secure four of the five, and also one of packages F and G, leaving any single rival with a meagre maximum output of 52 games over the course of an entire season, and with more than one-third of those games broadcast in a single fortnight.

  • A package of free-to-air highlights is also being offered by the League, and, at a later date, it will sell access to a further bundle involving ‘near-live’ full-length match rights for the 180 games not selected in the live auction, in addition to internet clips for all games.

Premier League woos new entrants, creating BT partnering opportunity

The Premier League stated that the rights will be available on a technology-neutral basis, meaning that successful bidders will have the right to broadcast on any platform of their choice — news that may have sparked a degree of the speculation on companies such as Amazon getting involved through its on-demand Prime Video service.

The Telegraph subsequently reported that two anonymous sources had confirmed definite Amazon interest in the process, although one of these appeared to suggest it had done little more than sound out experts in the broadcasting field on the potential costs and complications associated with its involvement. BTwatch would not be surprised if the other source was from within the Premier League itself, which is clearly keen to drum up the impression of bidding interest and competition.

However, some analysts have taken the news of potential interest from the internet giant as making it “very likely” that some form of bid will be tabled, most likely for a small bundle of matches separate from the major match-day weekend blocks. Packages F and G, which open up the prospect of broadcasting several matches simultaneously, could be a useful entry point for a challenger, and suited to an entity keen to demonstrate its streaming capability.

However, BTwatch considers that it might be a pricey experiment that may not provide significant actionable insight for an internet player working alone. The appeal may also be tempered by the restricted UK-only nature of the rights, with internet businesses seemingly more focused on wider scale international deals where their reach and clout may be more effective.

There may, though, be an appealing opportunity for BT to ramp up its partner with an online player, such as Amazon, Facebook (with which it has worked on sports streaming previously, BTwatch, #283), Google’s YouTube (BT’s current ally on UEFA streaming — BTwatch, #276) or Netflix, to explore new business and operational models for broadcasting live sport and time-shifting.

A co-branded exercise could see the telco lend its production capabilities, as well as shore up its struggling BT TV proposition — by taking another step towards adopting a more on-demand and over-the-top (OTT) business model, and a step away from its current closed platform (and limited audience) approach. An internet partner, meanwhile, would have an opportunity to test the demand and technological challenges ahead of pursuing rights more aggressively in the future.

The prospect or even just the possiblilty of BT buddying with an online brand for football rights could majorly concern Sky financially and strategically, and so ‘encourage’ it to ‘play nice’ in battlegrounds such as content and infrastructure, pushing onto the backfoot competitively.

Image: Alex Sajan / Unsplash.

Table of Contents

EXECUTIVE BRIEF

BT GROUP

Digital Britain

BT meets 95% fibre coverage deadline in Scotland… 100% superfast next [p6]

  • Hancock takes the DCMS tiller

Pension

Changes afoot at BT Pension Scheme [p7]

  • Asset sale may also be on the cards

BT plans for pension inflation cap dealt a blow [p8]

  • Table 1: People movement highlights

CONSUMER/EE

5G

Positive news for BT as 5G takes “huge” step forward [p12]

  • Progress on standards opens way to 2019 deployments…
  • …while UK government outlines next steps on 5G
  • Key points of the UK 5G strategy update
  • Stay of execution for Airwave workers highlights ESN delays
  • Table 2: Premier League live broadcast rights packages, 2019-22

BT Sport

Amazon lurks as Premier League auction kicks off [p16]

  • Mobile switching by text due in 2019
  • Premier League woos new entrants, creating BT partnering opportunity

Products and services

G.fast out of the blocks (at a price) [p18]

  • Pricey products, but may appeal to core customers
  • Table 3: BT ultrafast products, and Virgin Media comparators
  • Ofcom considers future fixed-wireless needs
  • G.fast SmartHub foreshadows Future Voice launch

Spectrum

Ofcom pushes on with auction despite Three appeal [p21]

  • H3G knocked back again; returns for another round

Suppliers

BT Sport switches digital ad contract from Google to Channel 4 [p22]

  • Media empires strike back
  • DoubleClick minimised
  • Channel 4 already has history with BT
  • BT’s digital advertising ambitions get a boost

BUSINESS AND PUBLIC SECTOR

Products and services

BT taps Resilient to bring call recording to Inbound Contact [p25]

GLOBAL SERVICES

Cloud services

IBM latest recruit to BT cloud bandwagon [p29]

  • Patterson among execs pushing BT in USA

OPENREACH

Network

Openreach rows back on G.fast pilot scale [p32]

  • Mixed signals as fibre talks continue
  • Retailers waiting in the wings

Operations

Separation progress reaches Openreach IT [p33]

  • New approach to planning at Openreach
  • Open reach-out

Regulatory

Peer pressure prompts Ofcom to cap FTTC pricing freedom [p35]

  • Higher prices: the cost of preventing Openreach discrimination?
  • CityFibre fears challenges to creating demand for FTTP
  • Openreach takes the high road

Ofcom calls on Openreach to play fair on narrowband [p37]

  • Fixed voice still popular, but significance wanes

Suppliers

Openreach sheltered from Carillion fallout [p38]

  • “Don’t panic!” message relayed by all parties

FURTHER READING

INDEX

Index

Symbols

21st Century Fox 7
Sky
Sky Sports 16

A

Accenture 7
AD2ONE 23
Alphabet
Google
DoubleClick 22, 23
– – YouTube 17, 22
Amazon 16, 17, 26, 30
Amazon Prime 17
– Amazon Web Services 26, 30

B

BlackBerry
Good Technology 26
Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) 6
BT Group 5, 7, 9, 12, 21, 23, 30, 33, 34, 35, 37, 38
BT Business & Public Sector 25
BT smartnumbers 25
BT Consumer 18, 19, 23, 32, 33
BT Cloud 29
– – bt.com 23
– – BT Infinity 18
– – BT Mobile 23
– – BT Openzone 9
– – BT Scotland 6
– – BT Sport Europe 23
– – BT TV 17
– – BT Wi-Fi 9, 23
BT Global Services 9, 28, 29, 30
BT Americas 30
– – BT Health 9
– – BT Security 30
BT Pension Fund 7
Hermes Pension Management 8
BT Pension Scheme 7
– BT Technology, Service and Operations 33, 34
21CN 38
– – Adastral Park 13
BT Wholesale & Ventures 9
Tikit 9, 26
EE 11, 12, 13, 15, 21, 26
Emergency Services Network 15
Executives
Ainley, Katherine 9
– – Artley, Jennifer 30
– – Dick, Brendan 6
– – Hill, Simon 9
– – Hughes, Mark 30
– – Joshi, Jayesh 9
– – Khanna, Sandy 9
– – Lowth, Simon 7
– – McRae, Neil 12
– – Patterson, Gavin 30
Perkins, Jason 9
– – Petter, Ed 30
– – Pilcher, Malcolm 25
– – Rolph, Scott 9
– – Rosenberg, Jeremy 22
Openreach 9, 18, 19, 26, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39
– Products and services
Family SIM 23

C

Carillion 38, 39
Carillion telent 38
Centrica 9
Channel 4 22, 23
Cisco Systems, Inc. 13, 14, 26, 30
CityFibre 35, 36
CK Hutchison 21
3 Group 21
– Three Group
Three UK 21
Communications Workers Union 15
Cricket Australia 15

D

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS, UK)
Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) 6, 38
– Hancock, Matt 7, 13
Digital Britain 6, 7
Digital Economy Act (UK) 14

E

Electronic Communications Code 14
Emirates Airline 22

F

Facebook 17, 22
Financial Services Authority 26
Football Association 22
Premier League 16, 17, 22

G

G-Cloud 26
Gigaclear 38, 39
Goldman Sachs 26
Google 17, 22, 23

H

Hewlett Packard Enterprise 30
High Court 21
Home Office (UK) 15
HP Inc 30
HSBC 26
Huawei Technologies 12, 13, 19

I

IBM 9, 29, 30

J

JPMorgan Chase 26

L

Liberty Global
Virgin Media 9, 18
LinkedIn 9
Lloyds Banking Group 26

M

Marconi 38
Mediaset 22
Microsoft 30
Ministry of Defence (MoD) 26
Morgan Stanley 26
Motorola 15
Motorola Solutions
Airwave 15

N

National Health Service (NHS, UK) 26
Network Rail 14
Nomura 26
North Supply 26

O

Ofcom 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, 35, 36, 37
Oracle 30
Orange 26

P

PricewaterhouseCoopers 8

Q

Qualcomm 13

R

Resilient plc 25, 26
smartnumbers 25, 26
Rubicon Project 23

S

Samsung 13
SWIFT 14

T

TalkTalk Telecom Group 18, 33
Technology
2.5G 13
– Blockchain 29
– Broadband 6, 7, 18, 19, 26, 32, 33, 35, 36, 37
– Fibre 6, 18, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 38
Fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) 18, 35
Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) 18, 32, 33, 34, 36
– G.fast 18, 19, 32, 33, 35, 36, 38
– Internet of Things 29
– IP 19, 37
– ISDN 26, 37
– LTE 12, 13
– OTT 22, 23
– PSTN 19, 37
– R&D 13
– SaaS 25, 26
– SIP 26
– TDM 15
– VoIP 19
– Wi-Fi 14
Telent 38, 39
Carillion telent 38
Thruvision 9
TM Forum 14

U

UEFA 17, 22, 23
Champions League 22, 23

V

VMware 26
Vodafone 9, 13, 15, 26, 35
UK 35

W

Walt Disney Company, The
ESPN 23
WPP
Maxus 23

About

About BTwatch

Report: #292
Published: January 2018
Next report: February 2018
For more information visit: BTwatch