World Soccer Talk

Sky Sports gambles on Premier League after losing LaLiga rights in UK and Ireland

This week, English premium sports channel Sky Sports lost out to Eleven Sports to show Spanish LaLiga football. The news feels like a bombshell to its subscribers.

Sky Sports has been losing ground for a few years now when it comes to showing soccer. The corporation looks to be finally admitting that enough is enough when it comes to spending billions of dollars on soccer TV rights.

However, LaLiga was costing Sky just $30m dollars a season. Compare this with the billion dollars they spend on the Premier League, and it becomes apparent that purse strings are being tightly closed shut.

What is the deal with Sky bailing on Spanish football?

The league has arguably been the best in Europe since the turn of the century. Both Real Madrid and Barcelona have won the Champions League nine times between them.

We have witnessed the emergence of Lionel Messi at Barcelona, hailed as the greatest player ever to kick a ball. If you don’t believe that, then perhaps it is Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

We have, on Sky, been able to witness the greatness of these players week-in week-out.

Perhaps Sky have chosen not to bid higher and challenge Eleven Sports because Messi and Ronaldo are simply getting older. How much gas is left in the tank, so to speak?

Messi will be 31 this year whilst Ronaldo will be 33, but both players benefit from modern healthcare with the result that they could continue playing in the Spanish league until the mid 2020’s.

Plus, of course, this is LaLiga. The greatest teams will always be here and it seems strange that Sky simply does not care about taking the delights of watching Real Madrid and Barcelona away from English screens. It’s important to note that the league isn’t just about these two historical clubs.

Atletico Madrid have made massive strides in the past few years. They’ve broken the Madrid-Barcelona monopoly in the league, picked up the Europa League and won domestic cups. Not to mention that they are set to finish second this season.

Sevilla knocked out Manchester United in the Champions League and as we speak two Spanish sides in Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid could sweep up in Europe.

Should we be surprised by Sky’s move?

In recent years, they have had to give up a portion of English Premier League rights to BT Sport- although Sky still get the prime games. The biggest change has been the loss of Champions League football, again, to BT Sport.

Indeed, Sky do not have the rights to the biggest showpieces in European football bar the Premier League. It seems that the company are putting all of their eggs in one basket. But it is a basket that they must share with rival BT Sport.

The excuses over the coming days from Sky could be that English viewers are tuning out of Spanish football. That has had its heyday and that viewers only tune in to watch El Clásico, which is ironically the fixture to be played this coming weekend.

This reminds me of terrestrial television in the 1990’s when each sport was swallowed up and sold to the highest bidder. Then there was just one bidder, Sky Sports. Now Sky have rival bids coming from left, right and center. Sure, they have other rights like Formula 1 and Golf. Nevertheless, the beautiful game is, and will for the foreseeable future, be the number one sport the world over.

This development feels like Sky are taking a huge gamble.

Perhaps they will be able to retain highlights of LaLiga to show late on weekdays when there’s no more news to show on the Premier League.

From the inside, the latest loss may make financial sense but to the outside and its subscribers it feels like the big fish just got swallowed whole. This could be just the beginning.