The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has made a landmark ruling this morning that will have a dramatic impact on the Premier League.
The ECJ ruled that it is not illegal for individuals in the United Kingdom to buy set-top box decoder cards from foreign broadcasters. Previously, residents in the UK could only watch televised Premier League games that were shown on Sky Sports and ESPN. But now with this new ruling by the European Union’s highest court, UK residents can buy decoder cards to legally watch TV broadcasts of Premier League matches beamed overseas.
The ECJ said that stopping the “import, sale or use of foreign decoder cards is contrary to the freedom to provide services and cannot be justified either in light of the objective of protecting intellectual property rights or by the objective of encouraging the public to attend football stadiums”.
Now that the ruling has been made, I predict there will be seven significant impacts. Most notably:
- The number of subscribers to Sky Sports will fall sharply. Soccer fans in the UK will be able to pay much less to watch coverage of their own league from European TV networks,
- The value of the UK TV rights deal, which BSkyB recently paid more than £1bn for coverage of the Premier League, will plummet. When the TV deal is up for renewal, there’s no way that the Premier League can expect Sky or any TV network in the UK to pay that much again,
- Attendances to Premier League matches will decrease. Previously, TV coverage of many Premier League matches was blacked out for people living in the United Kingdom. While the games will continue to be blacked out on UK television, Brits will be able to legally watch the games live on television using the decoder cards. Hence, attendances will decrease, and this could also have an impact on ticket prices too, which should decrease since supporters can watch the game at home for a lot less money,
- Less of a reliance on BBC’s Match Of The Day. The match highlights show will be less vital to watch because soccer fans can watch the games and goals earlier in the day,
- Premier League clubs will need to be more fiscally responsible than usual. SInce the amount of money that Premier League clubs can expect to receive from domestic TV deals will be reduced. it’ll be imperative that these clubs keep their spending within check,
- There will be a greater focus on generating increased TV revenue from overseas markets which are not in the European Union. With domestic TV rights revenue expected to drop, it’ll be more important than ever for the Premier League to maximize TV revenue overseas to make up for the expected domestic shortfall in future years,
- Expect discussions about the 39th Game to return, as well as possibility of more kick-off times moved. This could mean that there would be greater variety of kick-off times in the United Kingdom so more games can be scheduled for prime-time Asia markets. Also the ruling by the ECJ could put the concept of the 39th Game back on the drawing board as the league and clubs look for ways to generate more revenue.
Today’s ruling by the ECJ is another dramatic blow to the Premier League who, only last year, had a copyright infringement case against YouTube dismissed by a U.S. court.
Meanwhile, according to The Guardian, the ECJ ruled against the bid by Karen Murphy, the landlady of the Red, White and Blue pub in Portsmouth, to be allowed to use a Greek decoder card to show live Premier League matches to pub goers at much cheaper rates than BSkyB charges commercial premises in the UK on copyright grounds. The ECJ said the transmission in a pub is a “communication to the public”, which means that without the permission of the FA Premier League Murphy is in breach of the copyright directive.
The Premier League now has to decide what it’ll do regarding TV rights deals in the United Kingdom. This will most definitely be a story to watch to see how it unfolds as it could have huge impacts for soccer fans in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world.
What other impacts can you see the ruling having? Share your insights in the comments section below.