It’s fair to say that the Internet is a complete waste of time. Aside from the odd virtual museum, or learning about the history of the Bantu peoples on Wikipedia, there’s very little on there that’s worth the time of day, I think. Twitter? Rubbish. Facebook? Old. Hulu? You couldn’t pay me to watch network TV anymore.
But on Any Given Saturday, from August to May, the Internet is, in fact, worth a damn. That’s because, thanks to the likes of Ustream, and Justin.tv, and any number of esoteric, China-based P2P programs, I can watch the various European soccer leagues right here on my MacBook. And as much as I’d like to see Aston Villa play Wigan this Saturday, I’d much rather see how this whole Manchester City business turns out. Unfortunately, the City game, against Blackburn, is on Setanta Sports USA, a channel I don’t have. Ustream to the rescue.
Unfortunately, that’s just the scenario that Engl… Barclays Premier League is afraid of. No, it’s not the first time the Premier League has complained about the proliferation of live football streams, but now they’re crying poverty, claiming that “digital piracy is one of the most important threats facing sports rights owners today.” I’m sorry, but I don’t care, and I would think that Sheikh Mansour doesn’t mind, either. He’s rich enough, and some guy in New York watching his new plaything squeak by Blackburn 1-0 on Justin.tv won’t upset him too much.
Not every team is bankrolled by petrodollars from the Middle East, and this is why the Premier League is freaking out. If the League can’t turn to Sky or ESPN when it’s time to negotiate rights contracts and say, “We guarantee that X-Number of people watch every single Premier League game,” why would Sky or ESPN shell out hundreds of millions, if not billions, of pounds? It’s always helpful to keep in mind that these guys, Sky and ESPN and others like them (R.I.P. Sentanta UK,) are buying an audience when they buy the rights to Premier League games. They then sell this audience to advertisers, which is how their money is made.
Right, so if the Premier League cannot guarantee Sky and Co. and audience, how can they charge a premium? In other words, the more people that watch these games, for free, on the Internet, the less of a legitimate audience they have. No audience, no contract with Sky, no money in the League. That’s how the Premier League sees it, at any rate.
In other words, the Premier League is afraid that Sky’s money well will dry up.
Not that any of this matters. Just wait till April, 2010, when Premiership footballers are taxed to death, and then flee to Spain. At least the weather is better there. On some days, I hear, you can even see the sun! Imagine that.