Insight Into Football Broadcasting – The Main Talking Points From This Season’s Action

With the football season at an end, our Polish insighter Monika Halicka sifts through the broadcast numbers to give you a play by play on this season’s televised coverage.

1. BT’s audiences keep growing, whilst Sky loses viewers again.

The average audience for the 38 EPL games broadcast by BT in the 2015-2016 season went up 4.6%, reaching 800,000 viewers per match. It’s yet another positive for BT, who since acquiring the rights ahead of 2013-2014 season have gone from strength to strength. The growth could partially be explained by BT Sport’s subscriber growth after its exclusive £897m three-year deal to broadcast the Champions League and Europa League matches live. As a further sign of their growth, BT gained 66,000 new television customers in the first quarter of 2016 - taking their total subscribers in the UK to 1.46 million.

Sky on the other hand, whilst still having larger audiences than BT, have experienced another fall in EPL viewership. After recovering from a considerable 11.8% fall in the 2014-2015 season, they could only attract an average of 1.270m viewers this season (representing a more manageable 2.5% fall). You’ve got to wonder if this will lead to BT receiving a  larger pick of the big games next season…something to ponder when your inbox swells up with all the “switch and save” emails.

audience chart

2. Sunday games bring, on average, 47% more viewers than Saturday games.

8 out of 10 most popular games in the 2015/2016 season were played on a Sunday. With an average of 1,377,656 viewers per game, Sundays’ dominance increased by 12 percentage points compared to last season’s, when the Sunday games were watched by an average 1,337,290. 2pm and 4pm were the most popular Sunday time slots, with average viewership of 1,785,625 (in 8 games) and 1,592,345 (in 29 games) per game respectively. The 2pm slot has traditionally been a popular one, as it tends to feature the biggest teams. For example, out of the 8 2pm games in the 2015-2016 season, 5 featured Manchester United.


3. Football League Tonight’s potential dithered, as audiences were slashed in half after the show’s move to Channel 5.

After a move from BBC to Channel 5, the average audience of the highlights show fell from an average of 638,673 to 308,463. This is not solely due to the change of broadcaster, but also due to the programme’s disappointing format. In the first half of the season especially, the show faced criticism for failing to engage the in-studio audience and the chaotic way the match clips were shown. The new year saw the disappearance of the studio crowd and a rejig of the format in order to make the show easier for fans to follow. However the audiences fell even more (from 323,854 to 296,778). It’s unclear whether it’s the time slots, presenters, format, or a combination of all three that’s causing the viewership decline, but whatever the cause, Channel 5 certainly need to pull their socks up.


4. Leicester’s extraordinary campaign led to a 33% increase in their average TV audiences at home.

However, the club’s performance does not always directly influence the number of viewers for the matches. Aston Villa, for example, experienced a 16% increase in viewership, while Chelsea’s average home audiences remained stable during their disappointing season. Southampton’s average home audience, on the other hand, fell by 20%.


blog infographics

What does it mean?

  • BT’s arrival as the Premier League’s second broadcast partner has again negatively impacted Sky’s audiences, and the decline is likely to continue as the BT’s subscriber base grows.
  • Under the new three-year deal, starting from next season, BT will show 42 live games, which is very likely to attract even more viewers. However, Sky will take over most of the Sunday coverage in an attempt to regain some of audience growth.
  • Leicester’s success will probably lead to a higher number of their live games shown on TV (in the 2015-2016 season, Sky broadcast 13, and BT 2 games), which in turn could have a positive effect on the sponsorship revenues for the club. For example, King Power’s £1m-a-season shirt sponsorship deal is now estimated to be worth around £10m, and is expected to be renegotiated in the summer.
  • Channel 5 will have to rethink the format of the Football League Tonight’s show, and invest more to get the viewers back. Also, it might be necessary for the broadcaster to find a more accessible start time, as post-midnight and early-morning slots proved unpopular this season.
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