The Premier League is in the midst of working out plans for a Netflix-style streaming service, where games are directly broadcasted to the fans.
The Premier League’s new chief executive, Richard Masters, has revealed that a direct streaming platform for the topflight is in the pipeline, having considered delivering content directly to supporters for the 2019-22 seasons.
The move would allow the Premier League to cut out the middle man and provide a “Premflix” style channel rather than selling their rights to various TV companies, a shift in direction which is now on the table for the 2022-25 seasons.
Currently, broadcasters bid for packages in three or six-year cycles around the world but with the value of rights in the UK recording a slight downturn, the league is exploring an “over-the-top” service which is delivered “direct to the consumer.”
Viewers both in the UK and worldwide are required to pay potentially a handful of subscriptions to watch a seasons worth of games and the rationale is that eliminating the middle man could see the Premier League continue to rake in the cash – while potentially reducing rising costs for fans.
And the new service could be rolled out in 2022 in select overseas markets, where if successful could forever alter the consumption of football.
“During the last [rights bidding] process [for the 2019-22 seasons] we spent quite a lot of time and invested a lot of resources in building our expertise and capacity in ‘direct-to-consumer,” Masters said.
“We considered whether strategically it would be the right time to test a few markets then and decided not to.
“We were ready last time and we will be ready next time should the opportunity arise. Eventually the Premier League will move to a mix of direct-to-consumer and [traditional] media rights sales.
“We have every reason to be optimistic about the future of sports rights. I don’t think the bubble has burst because our business is effectively hedged between domestic performance and international.”
Various reports, including from the Athletic and the Times, suggest the Premier League considered conducting their first trial in Singapore, where over 400,000 currently subscribe to watch, but a majority of clubs felt it was too soon as a £70 million fee was already assured and negated the need to take the risk.
There is certainly a lot of risk associated with the move as a shift from secured revenue to consumer-driven revenue is a significant step, but Masters remains optimistic it is a viable route.
A “club broadcast advisory group” has been assembled with a handful of chief executives on hand to make sure everyone is on the same page, with Liverpool CEO Peter Moore taking his place on the panel alongside the representative from Brighton, Crystal Palace and Manchester United.
It is, however, likely for the platform to be first launched to overseas markets before the UK which would require heavy investment and complex work of catering to various markets and languages.
With UK broadcast revenue figures dropping marginally for the latest packages, this news could be acting as way to drive revenue the other direction despite plans for domestic use not set for the near future.
But with various sporting leagues around the world considering similar ventures, the Premier League could certainly look to bank on their worldwide following to amass sums greater than the current setup, which is in the region of over £9 billion.
Importantly for fans, the move could see greater consideration for kick-off times well in advance of a fixture, eliminating concerns of changing travel plans and the resulting cost.