Being the first month the year, January tends to be fairly chaotic in most walks of life. Amongst other things, the winter transfer window enforced on major European football sides causes much uproar amongst sports fans, journalists and bloggers alike. However, one story from the dreaded ‘rumour mill’ in particular has caused a bit of fuss in the digital world.
Technology magnates Google and Apple could be on course to compete with the likes of BSkyB, ESPN and al-Jazeera for the rights to broadcast live English Premier League football matches between 2013-2016. With details of the broadcasting packages due to be made available in the second quarter of 2012, there are many onlookers that will be watching closely to see if either Google or Apple decide to throw their names into the hat.
Internet streaming of live Premier League games does exist today, with SkyGo allowing Sky Sports subscribers to watch match coverage through a computer, laptop, smartphone (etc). Despite this being a relatively new innovation for UK sports coverage, illegal internet streaming of Premier League matches has become a massive grievance for the Premier League in the same way file sharing has affected the music and film industry.
If an internet-based broadcaster will look to invest in secure, live streamed coverage of football matches, the Premier League would surely welcome the likes of Google and Apple into the bidding war about to take place.
Image via uk.eurosport.yahoo.com
Having read a few blogs on the subject, some ‘experts’ suggest that Apple is less likely to bid, primarily due to difficulties with fitting live Premier League coverage into its current payment model for services like the AppStore or iTunes. Subscription-based live sports coverage already exists on Apple TV in the form of Major League Baseball, so this would suggest that Apple would be able to accommodate Premier League football to its offering.
Beyond the obvious benefits for a broadcaster to show live matches, Apple may see securing live Premier League coverage as a way of establishing Apple TV in the UK marketplace, as well as drive sales of other Apple products. There is already a deal in place to purchase archive Premier League content through iTunes, so live broadcasts could be seen as a natural progression for the company.
Most football fanatics have used Google subsidiary YouTube to watch video clips of their favourite football moments, player montages or recent match highlights. With the video-sharing website rolling out the YouTube Live channel last year, it has the capacity to integrate live Premier League action to its proposition.
However, the Premier League and Google haven’t enjoyed the best of relationships in the past, so much so that the sports organisation attempted to sue YouTube in 2007 over copyright infringement of video clips of Premier League matches appearing on the site. It was deemed by the courts that YouTube were protected by US legislation, on the understanding that the service provider (YouTube) removes the material from the site when notified by the copyright owner (the Premier League). This is why if you find highlights of English Premier League matches on YouTube these days, it won’t be accessible for long.
Any Google bid for live match coverage would have to come with extensive efforts to eradicate content that infringed on copyright laws (ie. the video clips you can currently find on YouTube of Premier League content). The other main issue for Google would be how live Premier League coverage would fit into YouTube’s current revenue model.
If either of the two technology giants enter the bidding process for live match coverage, Apple seem the better suited at this stage. Premier League rights may be a valuable incentive for consumers to take up Apple TV in the future.
It would be hard to imagine Google being interested in bidding for live match coverage, as it may be too much effort to be profitable. Google may be more interested in securing the UK online and mobile highlights packages currently held by Yahoo and ESPN respectively.
The combined broadcasting packages for live Premier League matches in the UK cost the current holders over £1.7billion, so any intention to enter the running for broadcasting right would be an expensive one.