Television viewing figures for Sky’s live Premier League football matches fell by an average of 14 percent last season, the company confirmed Monday against a backdrop of a huge hike in broadcasting costs.
Although the drop was partially down on viewers switching to watching games online and more matches being broadcast compared with the previous season, the data published by the Financial Times (FT) and confirmed by Sky indicates a drop in interest for live Premier League fixtures being shown on the pan-European satellite television platform in Britain.
“As we anticipated, the way customers engage with live sport is changing -- with strong growth in newer, digital-first platforms -- though linear viewing remains important for those big moments that matter,” said a Sky spokesperson.
Sky broadcast the vast majority of Premier League matches shown live on UK television last season that featured the likes of champions Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Leicester City and Sunderland.
Rival broadcaster BT, the only other company able to show live Premier League matches on television in Britain, suffered a 2.0-percent drop in average viewing figures for the season just ended, the FT business daily added, citing the Broadcasters Audience Research Board.
“Whilst BARB viewing figures are a useful barometer they don’t give the whole picture and are not our measure of success,” BT said in a statement Monday.
“Viewing habits are changing, with many of our customers consuming our content through digital platforms including the BT Sport App, YouTube and most recently in Virtual Reality,” it added.
The Premier League’s 20 clubs are currently enjoying the proceeds of a £5.14-billion ($6.5-billion, 5.8-billion euros) UK television rights deal for three years up to 2019 -- a staggering 70-percent rise on the previous agreement. Sky paid the bulk of the total, at £4.2 billion, with the rest coming from BT.
Recent results from Sky show that its profits have already taken a knock from the huge hike in the cost of showing live football games from England’s top tier. At the same time, thanks to the massive increase in clubs’ TV revenues, players are seeing their wages rocket.
Including overseas rights, the present Premier League broadcasting deal is worth £8.3 billion.