Sports fans ripped off by channel-hopping TV rights

Latest posts by David Gorman (see all)

It was announced this week that BT Sport had lost the right to broadcast Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and NBA basketball, with new broadcaster Eleven Sports picking up the sports in its latest acquisition.

It adds to an already impressive package of new acquisitions this summer, Eleven Sports will also be the exclusive rights holders for the final golf major of the year – the PGA Championship – and will also have Serie A and La Liga football, becoming the only way to watch Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in league action during the year.

Eleven Sports was founded by the Leeds United owner, Andrea Radrizzani.

An online-first broadcaster, you will be able to watch coverage on their website or their app. They are yet to announce how much subscribers will have to pay to watch their coverage,  but it will involve an annual or monthly pass.

They are not the first digital broadcaster to take a major sporting event from the old guard. Amazon will broadcast the US Open tennis exclusively.

Losing this sports is a blow to the traditional pay-per-view giants of Sky Sports and BT Sport. Sky Sports calls itself the ‘Home of Football’ and the ‘Home of Golf’, yet it now offers no coverage of its second most popular league or one of golf’s four majors. The more niche sports of basketball and UFC were an important part of BT’s coverage and losing the Serie A just as Cristiano Ronaldo joins the league is a big blow.

Unfortunately for subscribers, this is not reflected in your subscription price. Sky Sports after a few months bedding in is €70 a month. BT Sport costs €27.50 a month, for what is a worse offering than it was just a few years ago. To make matters worse, there is less and less sport on free TV, with TV3’s new Virgin Media Sports channel planning to charge €20 a month if you don’t have Virgin Media internet to watch the Champions League, a long-time Irish terrestrial TV staple.

Competition is usually healthy for business, and it is certainly lining the pockets of the owners, coaches and players involved in these sports – Sky Sports paid £5.1 bn for the Premier League in 2015.

For all of Sky’s ills, there was a time where if you put your money into a Sky subscription, you would at least know that you had the world of sport at your disposal. Now keeping track of everything could cost the average punter up to €2,000 a year.

Broadcasters plan to crack down on illegal streaming of events. But how can they expect the average person, who can’t afford these subscriptions, to become interested in these sports which are barely on free television? The price that Eleven Sports set will thus be very interesting . If they go for the Netflix price range it could change the market for the better. If they go for the Sky Sports price range it will be another rip off for sports fans.