In the modern social smartphone connected world no one is safe from the camera. Just think of the number of selfies that the Queen featured in during the recent Commonwealth Games.
When everyone has an HD camera in their pocket and a part of everyday life is to take and share an endless stream photos about what you’re doing: from what you’re eating to walking the dog. How do the Premier League expect people not to film and share what is undoubtedly one of the most exciting parts of the week to the majority of loyal fans and is probably a highlight of the year to those tourists visiting as a one off?
The fact of the matter is that as long as you let people in grounds with phones, they will share pictures. They can ban photos but, while the fans would certainly still flock to watch their team, it would create an even greater divide between clubs and their hard-working supporter base. And how do you even enforce that in a stadium of fifty thousand?
It is also important to remember that there is an upside to having images of the Premier League shared around the world. Every company who has paid to advertise on the shirts, billboards or perimeter hoardings is having their logo shared millions of times. After all the point of sponsorship is to get your brand out and to be seen, so what could be better than being seen by even more people? Isn’t this why players were barred from taking their shirts off to celebrate scoring? Therefore this is clearly an issue for the Premier League and how desperately they want to protect their rights and the value of their rights to broadcast the game.
But how? They certainly could begin prosecuting fans who have uploaded vines but the numbers are simply too large and what level of priority should they be given when it is possible to stream entire Premier league games online in HD for free. Last year’s crusade was to stop the broadcast of these live streams, however it has failed on rather spectacular level. It seems as though the Premier league are now going after what they think might be a more achievable target and the first step of doing that is to use utilise scare tactics to discourage fans from posting these videos.
Would it not be a better idea for the Premier league to try and embrace the social media world that we’re all now living in and thrive to build their brand around that? After all, it is brilliant that you can share football scores and clips in an instant, be it from the ground or from home, and easily discuss the game with your mates. All of this is really adding value to the Premier League and increasing the number of people who are able to pursue an active interest in a Premier league team. As I previously said, the Premier league can charge more money to sponsors if their videos are being seen by even more people than first anticipated. Of course the true battle here is one for the right to broadcast on TV and nothing to do with actual image rights or sponsorship.
With the latest TV deal going for £3 billion it is no surprise that they’re desperate to stop any other means of broadcasting or sharing near live videos. Of course they have also sold the rights to show live goal highlights on the Sun and the Times and these are streams of revenue which would severely diminish should people be ‘legally’ allowed to share videos themselves of the goals, as they have become accustomed to. There is a question over whether the sharing of a 6 second clip from a 90 minute plus game could really constitute breaking copyright. But if the value of the 90 minute game lies in those 12 or 18 seconds of goal footage, perhaps the way in which football rights are being sold is wrong in the first place. Should they be valued based on the goals in a game? Would you rather watch Man City and Liverpool draw 0-0 or a 7-3 thrashing of Crystal Palace by Hull? One will certainly attract a larger audience to sit down in the first place, but the highlights and goal clips will be worth more for the second. Equally, a Wayne Rooney overhead kick in the Manchester derby is a more valuable clip than one of Andy Carroll bundling home from a yard out in an end of the season dead rubber. Perhaps there is a lot more intelligence needed in the market for the valuation of football videos, and perhaps an idea of the value is needed before the Premier League can realistically begin to target fans who are sharing them?
With the rise of BT Sport and the breaking of Sky’s monopoly the value and issue of Premier league TV rights is one that will not go away and in fact the value is likely to only continue to rise. With such an incredible amount of money at stake, the money which funds the Premier league and all of its foreign superstars, there is no doubt that these rights will be defended as fiercely as possible.
That does not mean that it will be easy fight for the Premier League. Football Data Co long tried to to prevent the publication of fixtures without their license until it was judged that this was not their property, allowing multiple fansites to now feature the fixtures for their team. This is another issue, often the people who are being crushed by this protectionism are the very same people who are the life and soul of the fanbase for the clubs. However, it would be foolish to think that fans who turn up and pay the extortionate ticket prices every week are valued at all, the pot of gold is the TV deal.
There is another point in this matter. Those fans who have decided to subscribe to Sky are unlikely to start cancelling their subscriptions based on some fuzzy videos posted online that allow them to see the goals. Anyone who just wants to see the goals would either use the Times the Sun or stay up and watch Match of the Day. So who is really losing money? Do the Premier League anticipate fans being able to share better quality videos in the near future? Or with so much money at stake are they are they simply desperate to appear to be defending any rights which they have sold for large amounts of money? Even at the risk of alienating many of their fans and creating an even stronger image of being greedy.
While it is clearly not in the spirit of the Premier League to join a grand social movement allowing the sharing of football and scores, goals, videos and pictures all around the world, perhaps it will soon be time for them to re-evaluate their strategy on this and find a new way of making money because keeping a lid on the sharing of the videos is going to become nigh on impossible in the very near future.
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