It’s a bit odd when a refusal to overpay for already overpaid football and footballers knocks £1.4bn off your market cap but that’s what happened to BSkyB yesterday as, in effect, it saved the best part of £900m by declining to match BT’s successful offer for three years of Champion’s League football.
ITV, its current Champion’s League broadcast partner, slipped a bit while BT held steady – despite doubts in many quarters about whether or not it can really afford such a massive investment in sport (it already has 38 Premier League matches a season and Premiership rugby matches).
But, unfortunately for its shareholders who include Rupert Murdoch’s Fox company with 39 per cent, Sky is a one-trick pony despite all its huge and diverse offering – and that pony plays football.
It remains a mystery why Sky bid so low, £600m or so according to accounts. In these competitions everybody knows what everybody else is bidding so it could have chosen to match BT Sport. ITV, on the other hand, won’t be pleased to have lost its CL games but they’re less important for an advertiser-funded channel and ITV will be concentrating on next year’s World Cup in Brazil anyway (which BT and Sky are prevented from snaffling).
All of which makes the next Premiership three-year deal, due to be negotiated in 2015, absolutely vital for Sky. It won’t be able to grab the lot (as long as BT Sport is left standing) but it can’t afford to lose any more games (it currently has 116 to BT’s 38).
The ticket for all these matches over three years was expected to rise about 20 per cent to £3.6bn. That’s now looking rather conservative with something north of £4bn looking more likely.
That’s if these two rather unconventional broadcasters can afford it, of course. And cash-strapped fans agree to pay up.