How TV has changed Football and Liverpool FC
Television has brought many changes, but the impact of it on ‘The Beautiful Game’ and in turn on ‘The Reds’ and other clubs cannot be denied. It has literally brought in billions and billions of pounds and the sport now depends on it.
Indeed the most recent Deloitte Football Money League report – published in January this year – showed that Liverpool got 42 percent of its income from broadcasting in 2016, similar to most of the other top Premiership clubs, such as Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham.
So of the £300 million pounds Liverpool generated in revenue last year, its main source – albeit by just 3 per cent compared to commercial income – came from TV and from broadcasting, while match-day income has now dropped to just 19 per cent. It is a situation far removed from that of just 30 years ago…
Football was first broadcast in the United Kingdom back in 1938, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that league matches started to be shown with some regularity.
At this point the BBC and ITV enjoyed a monopoly although a dispute ahead of the start of the 1985-86 season - between the broadcasters and the Football League - saw no league football shown at all at the beginning of that season and only 13 club matches were shown in the second half. Difficult to imagine when today the figure is more than 10 times that (and some clubs, like Liverpool, even have their own dedicated channels).
In 1988, ITV concluded an exclusive deal worth around £44 million, a big shift from just two years before when a joint BBC-ITV deal saw them pay just £3.1 million and only screen seven league games each.
Further change was on the way though, and the arrival of satellite television, saw prices rocket, although at a cost with live top-flight football no longer available on free-to-air terrestrial. The launch of the Premier League in 1992-1993 was pivotal too and fuelled by a desire by the top clubs to get a bigger slice of the TV money. A deal in 1992, saw Sky pay a reported £191.5 million with live matches shown on a Sunday and a Monday. By 1997, the figure had risen to £670 million and it is a trend that has continued – despite the loss of the likes of Setanta Sports and ITV Digital.
Today Sky and BT share the spoils with costs now into billions and the latest deal for the rights (covering the 2016-2017 season and the two that follow) worth £5.16 billion for 168 live matches per season.
The viewing experience then is massively different for fans and so too is the income clubs get from it. However while TV has been one of the more notable drivers of change, odds and stats have also had a big impact, albeit more concealed, and the broadcasting environment has also had to evolve with the rise of other new technology, such as the internet and mobile phones etc. TV though remains a key driver.
It’s not been all positive, some argue the TV is holding back the evolution of the game, and the sheer amount of live games is also believed to have led to a fall in match day attendances.
Also, despite all the riches and in spite of all the billions coming in from Sky and BT, many Premiership teams still posted losses in 2016, Liverpool included, with the club making a pre-tax loss of £19.9 million. Difficult for fans to comprehend when revenue for ‘The Reds’ was £300 million and up £3.9m on the previous year. The sport is now big business - especially at the top.