TV Sports Markets

Sports media rights intelligence

FREE | UK market report, 2017-18

FREE | UK market report, 2017-18

31 Jan 2018
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In the latest interactive monthly data report, TV Sports Markets analyses recent developments in the UK media-rights market.

Further detail on the deals covered in this interactive data report are available on our Rights Tracker tool - click here for more information.

According to the TV Sports Markets Global Report, the UK media-rights market was worth a total of $4,844m (€3,960m) in 2017.

Power of the Premier League

The Premier League, the top-tier football league in England, accounted for 57.5 per cent of the total market value in 2017. In December 2017, the Premier League went to market again for a new cycle of domestic live rights, from 2019-20 to 2021-22, with a deal expected in February.

Premier League live rights over the last six cycles have increased in value by about 200 per cent. The biggest increase in value came in the current cycle, 2016-17 to 2018-19, when fees increased by 70.2 per cent. This was due to pay-television broadcaster Sky increasing its spending on live rights by 83 per cent in response to the threat of a strong rival bid from telco BT. Sky has dominated live coverage of the Premier League since its inception in the 1992-93 season but it has faced competition from BT in the last two auctions.

Last week, a highlights deal was completed with public-service broadcaster the BBC, for the new 2019-20 to 2021-22 cycle, worth £70.5m per season ($98.3m/€80.4m). This is a 6.7-per-cent increase on the value of the current highlights deal with the BBC, from 2016-17 to 2018-19, worth £68m per season.

Who is in the race?

In its tender, the Premier League has split live rights into seven packages on a platform-neutral basis. Two hundred matches per season can be shown live, up from 168 per season in the current cycle.

Last month, Sky and BT signed a landmark agreement to make channels available on each other’s platforms.

BT TV customers will be able to sign up Sky Sports channels via Sky’s Now TV platform, with BT able to sell subscriptions to Now TV directly to its customers. At the same time, BT has agreed to wholesale its BT Sport channels to Sky, allowing Sky to sell these channels directly to its satellite customers. It is expected that these new services will be available to customers from early 2019.

BT’s standout deal after entering the UK sports-rights market was the acquisition of exclusive live rights to the Uefa Champions League and Europa League, from 2015-16 to 2017-18 (TV Sports Markets 17:21).

The deal secured Uefa a rights-fee increase of just over 100 per cent compared to the previous cycle in the UK. It was also key for BT in developing its pay-television operation and denting Sky’s strong portfolio.

The Champions League is the second most valuable sports property in the UK, after the Premier League. Last year, BT renewed rights to both competitions in a three-season deal, from 2018-19 to 2020-21 (TV Sports Markets 21:5).

There has been speculation in the industry that US tech company Amazon may bid for live Premier League rights in the new cycle. In the last six months, Amazon has dipped its toe into the UK rights market, with the acquisition of live rights for tennis properties, the ATP World Tour and US Open (TV Sports Markets 21:1521:21).

What's left for free-to-air?

In the current Champions League and Europa League cycle in the UK, no live matches are broadcast by a traditional free-to-air broadcaster. Highlights have been sold to public-service broadcaster ITV. In the deal starting in 2018-19, exclusive rights were sold to BT.

Premium sport is now almost all on pay-television in the UK, and more worryingly for free-to-air broadcasters, a trend has emerged of pay-television exclusivity. Along with the new Uefa Champions League and Europa League deal, Formula One will be exclusively on pay-television from 2019. Its six-year deal, from 2019 to 2024, is a 157-per-cent increase in value from the previous cycle (TV Sports Markets 20:6).

A number of important properties remain live on free-to-air, in large part due to listed-events legislation. Below is a graph of selected current deals with free-to-air broadcasters. Of these events, only the Six Nations is not protected.

A deal that bucks the trend towards pay-television exclusivity is the BBC’s agreement with the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) from 2020 to 2024. The ECB renewed its pay-TV rights with Sky, for the same period, while also agreeing a five-year free-to-air deal with the BBC.

The BBC will hold non-exclusive live rights to 21 national-team and domestic matches per year, and will hold clips, highlights and radio rights. Sky will hold live rights to all home England national team and domestic county matches, and will also hold highlights and clips rights.

The deal with the BBC sees the return of live ECB rights to free-to-air for the first time since 2005. The fact the ECB was able to secure an increase in value, while also securing live free-to-air coverage, was seen as a big achievement.

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