Sky wants open competition for sports rights

UK pay-TV operator BSkyB has made a submission to the review panel looking into the UK system of certain listed events being reserved for free-to-air TV, arguing that a sports event should not be forced onto the list against the wishes of its governing body.

Speaking at an event in London, CEO Jeremy Darroch claimed UK sports bodies should be allowed to make a free choice of broadcast partner to ensure any deal is in the best interest of their sport and its future growth. “When you list an event against the wishes of the sport’s governing body, you restrict their choice of partner,” Darroch said. “You undermine their ability to set the right balance across a complex set of factors, including income, exposure, depth of coverage and promotional support.  And you remove open competition for rights – competition which has benefited UK sport in so many ways over the past two decades.”

Darroch highlighted the “depth and breadth of coverage” Sky had given to cricket over the last 20 years, which he said had given unprecedented coverage to the domestic, international and women’s games following an investment of over £500m (€580m) in rights and production. “When you hear people call for Test cricket to be put back on the list of sporting events reserved for free-to-air television, think hard about the potential consequences of restricting competition for rights, because it’s that competition which has helped to unlock the potential of UK sport,” Darroch said.

He also noted that pay-TV coverage of sporting events had boosted competition amongst broadcasters, which had in-turn increased the amount and quality of coverage across all platforms: “Today, the quality of coverage on free-to-air is better than ever, and the terrestrials show significantly more sport than they did before Sky arrived on the scene. So as well as bringing new investment into sport, competition drove up standards right across the board.  Everyone has benefited: the audience; the sports industry; and the broadcasters themselves.”  

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