Premier League has no say in how pay-TV operators price broadcasts: EPL chief

Premier League has no say in how pay-TV operators price broadcasts: EPL chief
Arsenal players arrive at the Shangri La Hotel to play in the Barclays Asia Trophy, a tournament which is among the Premier League's many plans to expand its reach and brand in Asia.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - The spiralling cost of watching the English Premier League (EPL) football matches on pay-TV is something beyond the league's control, its executive chairman Richard Scudamore has said.

When prices last went up in Singapore in 2013, Singtel - the exclusive rights holders to the EPL here - raised the cost of watching the EPL from S$34.90 to S$59.90 per month; the telco's bundled packages, which included the EPL, remained at S$64.90.

Singtel reportedly spent close to S$400 million to wrest the exclusive broadcast rights to the EPL in 2010, up from the S$250 million StarHub paid three years earlier.

Mr Scudamore, who is in Singapore this week for the Barclays Asia Trophy tournament at the National Stadium, is the man who helped deliver a record British TV rights deal for the 2016-19 EPL seasons earlier this year.

In February, it emerged that UK broadcasters Sky and BT had forked out more than £5.1 billion (S$10.6 billion) to secure the deal, a 70 per cent increase on their current £3 billion contract.

Mr Scudamore, speaking to The Business Times in an interview ahead of his trip to Singapore, was asked whether the EPL could work with pay-TV operators to ensure that the product remained accessible and affordable to football fans.

He replied: "Ultimately, this is a matter for those who have bought the Premier League rights. We have no say in how much they choose to bid for those rights, or how much they then charge for them."

The 55-year-old has been at the helm of the EPL since 1999; he was its chief executive until his recent promotion to executive chairman.

The upcoming 2015/16 EPL season, which begins on Aug 8, is the final year for British bank Barclays' title sponsorship of the world's richest football league.

The EPL did not have a title sponsor in its inaugural season of 1992/93 before signing a four-year, £12 million deal with Canadian brewers Carling, the largest in British sport at that time.

Carling later forked out thrice that amount for a four-year extension, before Barclaycard paid £48 million for a three-year contract beginning in 2001.

Barclays then paid £57 million for a three-year sponsorship deal in 2004; with further extensions thereafter, the value rose to the £120 million paid for the current three-year sponsorship in 2012.

The bank announced in March that it would not renew the deal when it expires at the end of the 2015/16 season in May next year.

The decision to do away with a title sponsor was a "strategic decision" undertaken by the Premier League and its 20 clubs, said Mr Scudamore, adding that it would help to grow the competition's brand around the world without being encumbered by a title sponsor and the demands that come with it.

"We will still have sponsors and partners, but specific to categories such as technology or timing. So events like the Asia Trophy may still have a sponsor's name attached to them, but not the main competition, which will be known simply as the Premier League from the 2016/17 season," he said.

With three EPL clubs - Everton, Arsenal and Stoke City - in town for the Barclays Asia Trophy, he said this tournament was just one of the many ways in which the Premier League planned to expand its reach and brand in Asia.

He added that it was equally important to stimulate the development of local football, be it in the development of community and school-based football or helping professional leagues and associations to grow.

Both the Premier League and our clubs are involved in activities to help deliver this during our stay in Singapore in a way that will leave a legacy," he said.

The first two matches of the Barclays Asia Trophy will be played at the 55,000-seater National Stadium on Wednesday, with Stoke taking on Everton at 6pm, followed by Arsenal facing a Singapore Selection at 8.30pm.

The winners of the two games will contest the final on Saturday, while the two losers will battle it out in a third-place playoff.


This article was first published on July 15, 2015.
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