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.