Premier League Supports Controversial Three Strikes Bill In UK


If you want to better understand the Premier League’s position on digital rights, go ahead and read Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore’s letter that was published in The Guardian last week on the topic of The Digital Economy Bill. The proposed legislation would kick accused, not convicted, file sharers off the Internet in the United Kingdom.

Scudamore’s letter, which reads like it was written by a PR agency, is laughable because it once again shows out of touch the Premier League is with reality and how behind the times they are with their digital strategy.

Here are some highlights from Scudamore’s letter:

“Currently, it is estimated that more than 6 million people illegally fileshare regularly, and the UK leads the world in illegal downloads of TV programmes, with up to 25% of all online TV piracy taking place here.”

I’d like to see the source for the above claim because I find it incredibly hard to believe that approximately 25% of all online TV piracy takes place in the United Kingdom.

“The reality is that unauthorised peer-to-peer filesharing, among other forms of illegal streaming, presents a very real threat. These burgeoning industries are based on a high-investment model, driving consumer demand – or in the Premier League’s case, fan demand – by providing what the public want: a quality product. In football, this entails acquiring, or developing, the best possible talent and playing the matches in arguably the finest club stadiums in the world. The whole industry benefits.”

Yes, P2P filesharing is a threat to the Premier League but it’s only a threat because the Premier League has failed to provide an online product that will satisfy the demand. If football supporters want to watch the Premier League online legally, the service is only available on a region-by-region basis from companies who have the Internet broadband rights for that area. The product and service, for the most part, are poor.

In the United States, for example, the only Premier League games we can watch live online and legally are on Setanta-i — which offers one game on Saturday and one game on Sunday. The other eight Premier League games each weekend cannot be viewed live online.

The reality is that I believe the Premier League doesn’t really care about creating a successful broadband package for football supporters around the world. The league is so much in bed with the TV companies which represents the lionshare of revenue for the 20 Premier League clubs that the last thing they want to do is to dilute the value of the TV rights by making games easily accessible online.

However, the reality is that there will come a time real soon where the demand for people to watch the Premier League online will be so great that it cannot be ignored. Until then, the Premier League will continue to milk the TV companies of as much money as they can. Sure, television is not going away and will remain the preferred method of watching Premier League matches for most people. But I believe that the Premier League is leaving a lot of money on the table by not truly embracing the digital world and creating a quality broadband package. There is a way for the Premier League to have their cake and eat it too where TV rights and broadband subscription services can generate massive incomes for the league, but it seems to be that the Premier League doesn’t want to go down that path while the going is good.

For a much more detailed and critical analysis of Scudamore’s letter, read the Techdirt article entitled “If We Don’t Kick People Off The Internet For File Sharing, Football Will Die” and be sure to read the comments there for some excellent points made by the Techdirt readers. Also be sure to read Cory Doctorow’s excellent article on the proposed bill.

If you’re against The Digital Economy Bill, sign the petition.

Photo credit: Soccerex.


9 thoughts on “Premier League Supports Controversial Three Strikes Bill In UK”

  1. I had a feeling you would get to this before I would, Gaffer, given that we're both avid Techdirt readers.

    The fact that Scudamore sees nothing wrong with kicking people off the net based on a mere accusation should be alarming. This man clearly doesn't care about providing a better service to fans. He knows football fans will show up anyway, so he'll just be happy to sit back and milk them for all they're worth, and screw 'em if they won't pay up. It's an old media way of thinking, and they only way things will change is if the TV money dries up. Then the EPL will have no choice but to adapt to the times.

    But the money's still coming in, just like it is with the movie business, which screams that piracy is killing their business while box office and DVD/Blu-Ray sales are *increasing*. If Scudamore is this stuck in with Hollywood, though, we're stuck with what we've got. Looks like I'll be paying DirecTV that extra $28/mo. for football for a while.

  2. Can't the PL see that they are the problem?

    By creating a system which relies too heavily on selling TV rights. People are sharing who find it hard to get the coverage of the EPL elsewhere. If the League was made more readily available then surely people wouldn't need to do this.

    They need to see that the Premier future is online whether these out of touch politicians like it or not. Kick anyone off the internet? Democracy is a funny thing.

  3. "There is a way for the Premier League to have their cake and eat it too where TV rights and broadband subscription services can generate massive incomes for the league..."

    Gaffer, I don't disagree with the thrust of your article, but exactly how do you see this being achievable without diluting one or the other?

    1. Ovalball, my recommendation would be for the Premier League to consider a model similar to MLB. See my article at

      The Gaffer

  4. 25% of TV downloading being from the UK would not surprise me. In the UK we watch a lot of US imports, and unless it's big series like Heroes or Flash Forward we often have to wait more than six months for a US show to be shown by a UK TV channel. So everyone uses Bit-Torrent or Newsgroups to watch shows at the US pace

  5. 25% of TV downloads..sounds a bit suspicious to me.

    I have no idea what a sports cable package costs in the U.K. -or in the U.S. for that matter. But like anything, there is a point when prices become so high that a black market for a product appears. So if the problem is as big as Mr. Scudamore claims, than perhaps price of legal viewing is simply too high.

  6. Latest good news from Techdirt at --

    ...At least some politicians in the UK are pushing back against Peter Mandelson's Digital Economy Bill, with Lord Lucas specifically pointing out that the real problem seemed to be one of the entertainment industry's own making:

    "We need to bear in mind that the problems now facing the industry are, to quite a large extent, of their own creation," he said. "The industry has been extremely slow to listen to the demands of its customers, and has had something of an abusive relationship with them, seeking to punish them before thinking of how to serve them better.

    "It has taken a decade for the industry to produce sensible alternatives to illegal file-sharing, and the fact that a generation of people have become used to an illegality comes down to the industry's sluggishness. It is still slow."

    The Gaffer


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