Will Justin.tv Destroy Sports TV Rights Deals?

from the learn-to-serve-the-demand dept

Last month, Mike wrote about how the English Premier League was making threatening overtones towards Justin.tv, after it discovered some users on the site were streaming broadcasts of its soccer matches. It’s the usual stuff from sports leagues, complaining that the sites aren’t doing enough to stop piracy, and that their safe harbor shouldn’t protect them, and that the DMCA takedown process isn’t good enough. Now, a piece in The Guardian wonders if the large-scale piracy, along with a spending slowdown, will hit the value of TV rights deals when they come up for renewal, with broadcasters unable to justify the same level of spending should viewer figures fall.

This scenario isn’t hard to imagine, but should it occur, it will be thanks to a lack of business acumen, not piracy. These sites exist, and thrive, because they serve demand untapped by the Premier League and its rightsholders. For instance, the rights situation means that in England — where the league’s based and its games played — fewer games are broadcast on TV than in many places in the world. Here in the US, nearly every match is broadcast each weekend; just a handful make it onto UK TV screens. British pub owners tried to serve the untapped demand for this by buying satellite systems from foreign countries, but the EPL shut that avenue off in the courts. Likewise, users in the UK and elsewhere turn to sites like Justin.tv because they don’t have other options. The match they want to see isn’t available on television, or they’re not near a TV set when the match is being played. I’d argue this drives use of the services much more than a desire for free content does.

The rights situation domestically in the UK is the way it is because of the long-held view that putting games on TV will hold down attendance; but the small stadium sizes and increasingly geographically distributed fan bases (along with high ticket prices) do this already. And indeed, the experience of other sports leagues around the world would indicate that giving fans the ability to watch their teams’ games on television does little, on its own, to hurt attendance. That sort of view seems to color the entire TV rights situation for the Premier League: it tries to manufacture some sort of scarcity in an attempt to increase its revenues. But the popularity of sites that make broadcasts available online makes it clear they’d be better off answering this demand with services of their own.

Here’s a novel idea: instead of trying to crack down on the likes of Justin.tv, why not require rightsholders to offer free streams of games as parts of their deals? Then, the Premier League and its broadcast partners get to serve this demand, instead of Justin.tv or Chinese P2P services, and get to capitalize on it through advertising or other means. It might have some effect on pay services by giving fans with the least willingness to pay a free service to use, but again, I’d argue that most people would still prefer to watch their teams’ games on a bigger screen and in higher quality enough to pay for it. And the additional fans the services would reach could make new converts to paid services as well. Whatever the EPL decides to do, it’s impossible to understand how it thinks it can benefit by alienating fans and making it difficult, if not impossible, for them to follow their teams.

Filed Under: ,
Companies: justin.tv, premier league

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Will Justin.tv Destroy Sports TV Rights Deals?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Mogilny says:


less than 10000. If north american tv networks aren’t buying the rights, that means they viewership number is too low to sell ads or even pay per view (each view will be too expensive). I don’t watch soccer, maybe they get more viewership. Also, you might argue that more people would watch it if they are legit and better quality.

Btw, the less than sign messes up comments. 🙁

Freedom says:

It's about the experience...

For me, my sport is baseball and now that I can get most of the games via HD on DirecTV, I no longer want to go to the stadium. I get better views, better commentary, a nicer seat, cheaper food, my own bathroom, the ability to pause the game (or watch later or fast forward) and elbow room at home.

As such, for me their is little to no value in going to the stadium for the live event. If it wasn’t available on TV, I frankly just wouldn’t be that big of a fan and ultimately less fans equals less money for the team.


Dave's Football Blog (user link) says:

There's more to this than just the Premier League

I made a similar argument on my on site a few weeks ago, and at least one person wrote back to say that the main reason there’s no live streaming of Premier League matches in the UK is the Football Association’s fear that everyone will stop supporting clubs in the lower leagues in favor of staying home to watch the big clubs on their TVs or PCs.

There’s a belief that the Premier League is smothering the rest of English soccer, so the FA is trying to make sure there’s still a support base for Leyton Orient, Oldham Athletic and other smaller clubs that fight for their place in the Football League with less money and a smaller support base.

It’s a different scenario from closed-shop American sports leagues, since clubs can be promoted to and relegated from all the leagues on the table. (We can’t relegate the Kansas City Royals to AAA ball, much as some of us would like to.) Theoretically, any club currently in League Two, England’s fourth division, can climb the ladder and reach the Premier League. So in a way, the FA is trying to make sure that’s still possible. The methods they use to ensure this can be argued for weeks, of course.

That said, I see no reason why the Premier League isn’t offering live streams of matches outside of Europe. The Australian Football League already does this through AussieSports.tv. The FA could do this with lower league clubs as well.

Real Football says:

I'd pay for it, but I can't even do that

In the US we watch real football and we have a similar situation here. Unless you have DirectTV (a single Satellite TV provider) and live in the US, you cannot watch the games you want to watch. You can only watch the ones that are chosen for you in your market. I can NOT for instance pay the NFL or a service to have it streamed to me. There is not one unless you want to have to deal with a satellite OR you live outside the US. If you live outside the US, the NFL allows you to pay for a service that streams the games over the internet in HD quality, $109.99 for the whole year (http://www.nfl.com/gamepass). Sounds great! BUT YOU NEED TO LIVE OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES and TERRITORIES TO USE IT!!!! AMAZINGLY STUPID! I want to use the service. I am willing to pay for the service. BUT I CANNOT! So, I watch a pirated version on the internet instead.

JPFife says:

It’s not just the FA who don’t like the 3pm kick offs being on tv, the SFA and the Welsh FA don’t like them either. Which is another reason there aren’t more games broadcast, as British TV broadcast to Britain and the Premier League is English. The two are not the same. Repeat after me America and England, England and Britain are not the same thing. There are special arrangements between the FAs of the UK to allow broadcasting of EPL games across Britain.

The FA have a definite right to go after people ‘broadcasting’ games on the internet. I’m pretty sure that the clubs themselves own the internet rights. A lot of clubs have the option to subscribe or view games or highlights on their own web sites.

And the ‘untapped demand’ argument is drivel. Just because someone demands something you give it them? Carlos is an expert? I think not.

Twinrova says:

No subject

“I’d argue that most people would still prefer to watch their teams’ games on a bigger screen and in higher quality enough to pay for it.”

It appears you’ve not heard of the NFL channel.

I substituted EPL with NFL. Amazing how the article reads identically to issues in this country (and just why in the hell do we care what’s going on in the UK?).

Your solution only puts a bandaid on the problem, but doesn’t take any steps to resolve the real issue here in that both the EPL and NFL think they own the rights to the plays of the game, when in fact they only own the rules to the game.

Until sports businesses realize this, consumers will continue to suffer.

danfan says:

I watched a game today on an internet video feed.
Because after already paying a monthly charge for setanta broadband, it turns out I have to spend more for champions league games. So then I went to the local pub (bar) and they didn’t have it. So I went home and watched it online.

These rich companies want their cake, and want to eat it too. It’s not enough that I pay my monthly fee….I gotta pay extra for ‘good games’???? What is that?? Why do sports bars have to pay extra – extra – extra for oddball sports (at least oddball in US)?

I just wanted to watch the game.

lapinmalin (user link) says:

i think it's just a beginning, that's a new way to watch tv

thanks for the post! i’ve checked justin.tv and i’m really amazed that these people did such a good job. too bad it doesn’t have the latests tv shows like gossip girls. wish also the quality would be the same as on cacaotv where you can watch free movies and TV shows online (over there : http://www.cacaotv.com). but at least these websites are better than torrent pirate bay because they are legal!

tariq14639 (user link) says:

Destroy Sports

Here’s a novel idea: instead of trying to crack down on the likes of Justin.tv, why not require rightsholders to offer free streams of games as parts of their deals? Then, the Premier League and its broadcast partners get to serve this demand, instead of Justin.tv or Chinese P2P services, and get to capitalize on it through advertising or other means

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...