ITV has decided against bidding for Premier League highlights, according to reports, which means there’s a open goal for the BBC to secure the rights.
- Match of the Day could remain on TV screens until 2029, if the BBC is successful in broadcast rights bid.
- ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 have balked at the cost of the rights, leaving the path open for the BBC.
The BBC has held the broadcast rights for the Premier League highlights for most of the League’s history, briefly interrupted in 2001-2004 by ITV.
It currently pays £71 million a year to screen highlights, despite being under pressure to cut costs.
Other public broadcasters count the cost
But the other main UK-wide public service broadcasters have so far ruled out bidding because the cost is commercially unviable. 20 years ago, ITV attempted to screen highlights at 7pm on Saturday. But viewer reaction was lukewarm. Subsequently, highlights drifted to their normal late evening slot. However, this isn’t a daypart where ITV wants to be spending much of its budget.
Channel 4 has been cutting costs and axing programmes of late, as it counts the cost of a downturn in the advertising industry. After being threatened with privatisation, it has to ensure it remains profitable, else face the threat again. Therefore, the cost of highlights are set to be too high for the broadcaster.
Meanwhile, Channel 5 has trimmed its sports coverage over the years. This is in contrast to its early days when football was used to draw in viewers. It periodically showcases live boxing on Saturday.
WBD has also lost appetite in free-to-air sports, having once scooped EFL highlights for its Freeview channel Quest. Remaining free-to-air sport has since been relegated to DMAX.
As a result, if the Premier League and BBC weren’t able to agree new terms, free-to-air highlights would face an uncertain future. The BBC could use the situation to force down the costs.
But the BBC screening highlights despite the cost would arguably be justified as being within their remit of providing a public service if commercial players don’t want to play ball.