IN the UK we have a passion for sport, especially football. The North East is no exception with Newcastle United and Sunderland AFC playing in the Barclays Premier League and both clubs well supported locally.
Indeed, Northumberland Street is always colourful with supporters wearing replica football shirts with pride.
It is fair to say that football at the top level is big business with headline-grabbing signings, sponsorship deals, season ticket sales and club merchandise all playing a part. On match days the city hums with excitement and expectation.
Over the summer, the Premier League Football rights were renegotiated and this is always an important time for FTSE 100 business BSkyB, which has built its kingdom on the first-class delivery of sporting events, including domestic football and European competitions, through its Sky Sports platform.
The football rights set the broad- casting coverage and structure for the 2013-14 season and run for a three-year period. BSkyB has dominated the packages on offer over the last 20 years with little competition from rival broadcasters based in the UK or overseas.
The results of the auction were announced in June and confirmed that BSkyB had again successfully negotiated the lion’s share of games. The group secured 116 live matches per year, winning five packages, covering the next three football seasons.
Although the success is welcome and removes the uncertainty which always surrounds the allocation of broadcasting rights, the price paid was a marked increase from last time.
Securing the football rights was seen as a must for BSkyB, as sport has been central to its business model to date. The business paid a staggering £2.28bn for the games, which is £760m per season.
This is significantly more that the last set of rights but places BSkyB in a strong position in the pay-TV market.
Naturally, the company is not just an entertainment provider but also delivers phone and internet access for customers.
However, it appears industry rivals are starting to up their game.
It came as a surprise that American sports giant ESPN, which is owned by Disney, failed to renew its football package for next season. The new entrant is UK tele- communications business BT which secured 18 first pick matches. This allows BT to screen some of the best football clashes over the next three seasons.
The packages covers 38 live games and will potentially allow BT to promote its online services, over the group’s fibre optic network, and a new dedicated channel will also be launched.
This will provide another string to BT’s bow and enable the business giant to compete more effectively with its peers.
Although Sky has maintained its dominance, it has had to do so by paying much more than expected and BT is a worthy competitor.
Looking forward, it appears that competition is hotting up in the pay-TV market, which is still recording good levels of growth.
But for now, fans can relax and prepare to tune in to the weekend’s fixtures.