THIS IS THE BIGGEST SEASON IN PREMIER LEAGUE HISTORY
… say the sponsors and lead broadcasters, who, along with their friends in the press, remind us that …
WE PAID BILLIONS FOR THIS
Well, sort of. They did, but it was on the basis they could pass on the costs to their customers. That Capitalism thing.
WE PAID BILLIONS SO THAT YOU COULD WATCH HULL CITY AND BURNLEY AND BOURNEMOUTH AND MIDDLESBROUGH AND WATFORD AND SUNDERLAND.
Okay, that last bit is not necessarily accurate.
But Sky and BT did pay a huge amount for the television rights this year, and some of the fare dished up so far has been pretty average.
Of course, I sit atop an ivory tower after Palace helped deliver some damn fine excitement to the neutrals in the 4-2 defeat to Liverpool on Saturday night.
For Palace fans, the result is wholly unsatisfactory, but that is missing the point.
That Palace game was there to present an entertaining alternative option, and a distraction from the Norwich City Chairman’s surprisingly good Cha-Cha-Cha, and to Mrs Jamie Redknapp dressed as a schoolgirl (so I’m told).
Joking and perving aside, once again the Premier League has flattered to deceive. The fact that no-one has been good enough to pull clear is now seen as a benefit rather than a flaw.
IT COULD BE THE MOST EXCITING PREMIER LEAGUE RACE IN YEARS!
But there is a flaw.
The flaw is that Sky and BT don’t want games like Middlesbrough versus Bournemouth or Watford versus Hull City in a ‘Premier’ League but they don’t want to admit it.
‘Fighting to be last on Match of the Day’ is not a piece of marketing you’ll ever see, but it seems more appropriate than ever this season.
Frankly, I don’t think the Premier League want Palace either. They would prefer clubs with bigger stadiums and (in their opinion) bigger potential, and there are loads of those in the Championship this season – Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Leeds United, Nottingham Forest, for starters and wannabes like Derby County, Norwich City, Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Cardiff City, Fulham and Queens Park Rangers.
But Sky and BT keep their thoughts to themselves and focus on the ‘brand’ and not the teams. And all the while they pass on their bigger costs to their subscribers.
And that is my point.
As Sky and BT subscribers, we end up paying that extra cash.
So if we get Hull City, Middlesbrough, Bournemouth and Burnley instead of the bigger clubs too incompetent to stay up, surely we should get a discount.
More than that though.
If Manchester United are going to spend the extra television cash on paying Wayne Rooney £300,000 a week and then not pay him, or spend £30million on Hendrikh Mkhitaryan and £39million on Anthony Martial to sit next to Rooney in the Director’s Box, why are television customers not given some sort of discount when Ashley Young appears instead?
The comparatively poor showing of the top English clubs in the Champions League is another indication that customers shouldn’t be paying top dollar either.
The top clubs have taken notice of that poor performance and signed up many of the top managers. We now have Conte, Mourinho, Klopp and Guardiola in charge of sides fighting for next season’s Champions League spots.
None of those top clubs have been consistent enough or good enough to have Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Atletico Madrid quaking in their boots.
All the top sides, except United, have shown classy form, at least in patches, so they could close the gap in time.
If the product is getting poorer, why are we paying more?
It is time for the television companies to be creative. After all, the next deal could be very, very different.
Historically, Sky, in particular, has used live sport as a means of generating new customers. And that strategy has been very successful – fair play to them.
But in two or three years time, will a single subscription to Sky, BT or Virgin be the main way that people watch programmes?
The success of Netflix shows like ‘Making a Murderer’ and ‘Narcos’, both excellent programmes, have opened up a new means of watching and paying for programming. We are about to see the launch of the new Clarkson show on Amazon.
It seems inevitable to me that people will revise how they watch and pay for television. If you combine FreeView with an Amazon Prime and a Netflix subscription, that gives a pretty good variety of programmes to watch. Live sport will be the only advantage that Sky and BT have over that simple combination.
And will a league with overpaid under-used players, with teams like Hull, Bournemouth and Middlesbrough (and maybe even Palace) not attracting the neutrals, be able to demand such a high price from Sky and BT the next time round?