Today, Celtic’s game will be available on pay-per-view.
This is part of the deal the leagues have negotiated with Sky in response to the global health emergency.
Which means that it’s a temporary measure. For now. For the moment.
But way back when this crisis began, I thought that this might end up one of the things that would endure long after it was over with. Fans like being able to watch games at home. Most of us prefer the stadium, but there will always be supporters who would rather not attend matches but what pay for a virtual season ticket.
The idea’s time has come.
Sky accommodated themselves to this because it was the right thing to do and because they needed a game to cover when everything was said and done. Had they been heavy about this and stood in the way of it, clubs would have sold a lot less season tickets and the product would have been worthless. They are not stupid, and that’s what we should count on.
Sky knows there’s more money in this. They could be running the pay-per-view scheme themselves and if they don’t do it someone else will. Sky’s deal has years to go, but clubs will be watching the way this scheme has worked and whether it’s been profitable. If it gives them an opportunity to take in more than from the current TV deal they won’t sign another, not with Sky, not when FansTV or something like it is a real possibility.
For Celtic, this could be a game-changer. If we were in full control of our own rights, we would almost certainly be better off for it. It’s one of the many things we’ll be studying hard as these campaign goes on. It would be interesting to know how many PPV packages we sell on Sunday; someone inside the club will be keeping those records with great interest.
Scottish football is treated abysmally by Sky and the other broadcasters. If we had some version of FansTV, or we threatened it, that may even bring them to the table with a more realistic bid, something to reflect what we know our game is worth.
It isn’t right that even the lowliest EPL club gets ten or twenty times what the champions in Scotland get, just by dint of being in that league. Scottish subscribers pay big money into that system; we are, in many ways, the architects of our own demise.
But the obscene money on offer down there can’t last forever; it’s too stupid, the sums are too high, there is no way that broadcasters can, or will, continue to fund the obscenity that is the Premiership in the way they currently do.
The feeding frenzy they had hoped for, where various organisations came in to share the cake, has led to the worst possible outcome; fragmentation. Eventually fans down there will pay only for the games they want to see and that’s the end of the whole affair.
The one advantage we get from the shocking low values of our TV deal is that with some creative thinking we could easily make it up to them if we had to pay them for their acquiescence. This is what the number crunchers will be looking at most closely.
Sky know that the way fans consume sport is changing and that the global health crisis is a step towards a new trend and a new watching of watching it. In this new world, Celtic has to be ruthless because that’s what’s necessary, but we can help the rest of Scottish football to a better place here, a better place than we ever had before.
Today’s figures will be interesting.
Our club is going to learn something about what the market for our games actually is. 60,000 fans will be watching in the ground. How many will be watching at home is anyone’s guess, but that’s where the future might be.