The English Football Association (FA) has confirmed newspaper speculation that UK commercial broadcaster ITV and pay-TV company Setanta will be its exclusive UK broadcast partners for the four-year period from August 2008 to July 2012. The announcement follows the conclusion of a bidding process for a range of FA events, including the core broadcast properties â€“ The FA Cup and England matches.
The new deal will generate £425 million for The FA over the four-year term â€“ a 42% increase on the current £300 million agreement with BBC and Sky, which expires on July 31 2008.
The arrangement with ITV and Setanta ensures that The FA Cup and England matches will continue to be shown on a mixture of ‘free-to-air’ and subscription access, with the principal games remaining on ‘free-to-air’ TV.
There will also be more airtime for other FA competitions and teams, such as The FA Community Shield, The FA Trophy, FA Vase and FA Youth Cup, all of which will now be covered in greater depth by Setanta Sports. The women’s game will benefit from enhanced programming including live ITV1 coverage of the Women’s FA Cup Final.
FA Chief Executive Brian Barwick, who led The FA’s negotiating team, said: “We are delighted with this new deal and are looking forward to our partnership with ITV and Setanta. It is very good news for football as the increased revenue will allow The FA to channel more funds back into the game. ITV are the UK’s largest commercial broadcaster and have captured many special moments in English football history, while Setanta are an ambitious, emerging sports broadcaster who see our properties as the next critical step in their development. I’m hugely excited by their innovative ideas and their commitment to helping us promote all sectors of the game. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our current broadcast partners, the BBC and Sky, for their coverage of our properties and look forward to working together with them over the next 15 months.”
The agreements also reflect developments in the online and mobile markets, with a whole new set of rights being added to The FA’s packages. For the first time, The FA Cup will be available on a near live basis on Setanta Sports, allowing fans the chance to see a selection of matches in full between the final whistle on Saturday and the evening highlights programme on ITV1.
Also available for the first time via Setanta Sports, will be an extended highlights video-on-demand service for The FA Cup and England matches. Finally, fans will be able to access goal clips from England and FA Cup matches via their mobile and internet connections via the agreement with ITV.
(Source: Football Association)
Andy Sennitt comments: This is a major coup for ITV Executive Chairman Michael Grade, former Chairman of the BBC, who was hired to reverse the decline of ITV. Wresting this contract from ITV’s major rivals proves that he means business. The other partner, Setanta Sports, is becoming a major player in the industry and together the two broadcasters have proved they can provide strong competition to the BBC and Sky Sports duopoly that has dominated coverage of English football in recent years.
I expect the BBC to now complain that it was restricted in the amount it could bid, due to the lower than requested licence fee settlement announced in January for the next six years. The BBC will use this as an example of why it needed more. In fact, the BBC’s football coverage has looked tired and in need of a shakeup for some time, and it will be interesting to see whether the Corporation tries some new ideas next season, the last year of the present contract, with a view to getting coverage back in 2012.
Sky Sports still holds a vast amount of rights, and while it has been bruised it has not been fatally wounded. The BBC, on the other hand, has now lost all its live football coverage except for major tournaments such as the World Cup and the European Championship.
Today’s announcement does not affect radio rights, which are seperately negotiated. But there, too, the BBC has lost its exclusive coverage of the English Premier League and from next season some games will be broadcast live on commercial rival TalkSport.
Update 1200 UTC: The BBC did indeed come out with a statement, much as expected: “We wish the FA and their partners well for the new contract. But whenever we bid for a contract, we have to bear in mind the interests of licence-fee payers and we always have to seek value for money. The BBC will be starting a new three-year deal with the Premier League this autumn guaranteeing Match Of The Day until 2010, and we will be covering the World Cups in 2010 and 2014 in addition to our other landmark events such as the Olympic Games, the Six Nations and Wimbledon.”