Despite interest from a few broadcasters in the United States, the Scottish Professional Football League was unable to get a U.S. media rights deal wrapped up before the start of the Scottish Premiership season that begins Saturday, August 1.
After B/R Live decided not to renew its deal for the upcoming season, fans of Scottish football in the United States found themselves in the lurch with no broadcaster picking up the rights to the league. It’s the first time in recent history that the Scottish top-flight league won’t be available in the United States. In previous years, the Scottish Premiership has had games strewn across GolTV, Fox Soccer Channel, B/R Live, FS1, FS2, FOX Soccer 2GO and FOX Soccer Plus.
Part of the roadblock for broadcasters is that Scottish football clubs are allowed to sell broadcast streams of home and away matches direct to consumers, thereby diluting the value of the rights themselves.
For the upcoming season, soccer fans in the United States can subscribe to club TV channels such as Celtic TV ($196/season), Rangers TV ($315/season), Reds TV ($196/season for Aberdeen supporters), and so on through the official club websites.
With extortionate prices such as these, it’s no wonder that illegal streaming is rife among a lot of soccer fans who are priced out of watching games and have no U.S. broadcaster who is willing to air select games from the league (this weekend’s fixtures on Sky Sports in the UK include Aberdeen vs. Rangers, Celtic against Hamilton, and Ross County vs. Motherwell).
According to a SPFL spokesperson, “This will see us ramping up monitoring of illegal streams of SPFL matches. Illegal streaming is not simply against the law — it sucks vital revenue out of SPFL clubs at a time when they are fighting for survival in the face of the pandemic.”
Thankfully this season, some of the Scottish clubs are offering monthly rates for direct to consumer subscriptions. Celtic TV is $20 per month. Aberdeen’s RedTV is the same price. Rangers TV doesn’t offer a monthly plan, but you can subscribe to a per-game rate of approximately $13.
While that provides short-term options for soccer fans, those monthly prices and per-game rates will quickly add up considering that the season runs until Saturday, May 15.
Despite many of the Scottish clubs having a diehard base of supporters in the United States, the fact that the Scottish Premiership was unable to lock in a deal prior to the new season is testament to the disorganization of the SPFL itself. It’s been one mistake after another in the way that the league is marketed internationally.
Today’s news is another example of a missed opportunity at a time when the Scottish league is in the position of being the first major European league to return to action for the 2020/21 season. At this rate, it won’t be major for much longer if it can be considered major at all.
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