TV watchdogs are under pressure to launch an inquiry into the rip-off cost of watching live Premier League football on television, which can be more than £600 a year. Virgin Media has claimed the way rights are auctioned leaves fans paying highest prices in Europe and they want this to change.
It strikes me as a moot point considering the minimum monthly cost of watching live Premier League is £51, whereas football fans in Germany pay £21 a month to watch top teams, in Italy fans pay £25 and in Spain it is just £18. So there isn’t much to investigate we are paying more.
The result is that clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City get a healthy share in billions of pounds from fans who are being taken advantage of. Although you could argue the more money these teams get the better players they can by, the better football they play thus better value for money. Although most fans won’t see it this way as they already earn horrendous amounts.
Virgin calculates that the minimum monthly cost of watching live Premier League games on the sports channels of Sky and BT comes in at £51. The £51 figure is much higher than the £21 month charge football fans in Germany must pay to see top flight teams such as the Bayern Munich and Dortmund in the Bundesliga.
Access to games in the UK is also far more limited compared to the rest of Europe. Here only 41per cent of Premier League games – 154 out of 380 – are broadcast live in a season. By contrast all games are broadcast live on TV in Spain, Germany, France and Italy. So they pay considerably less and get to see all of the games.
Virgin Media has asked Ofcom to open a formal investigation under the Competition Act 1998 into the arrangements by which the FA Premier League sells live UK television rights to its games. It claims the current regime causes ‘significant consumer harm’ resulting from escalating rights costs.
The Premier League insisted the auction process it uses is entirely legal. A spokesman said: ‘Live Premier League audio-visual rights have always been sold in a transparent and open process. ‘Regulators have examined our rights packaging and sales process in considerable detail in the past and found both of them to be compliant with UK and European competition law. ‘If Ofcom chooses to investigate this complaint, we will of course be happy to demonstrate to Ofcom that this is the case.’