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Sky lobbies for "free-to-air" sport events

March 11, 2009

BSkyB is lobbying to have the list of sporting events reserved for free-to-air television abolished in an ongoing government review. Chief executive Jeremy Darroch said Sky would argue for a situation where the World Cup or the Olympics could be shown on pay TV, with sports bodies free to decide where to sell their rights with no restrictions.

The culture secretary, Andy Burnham, is minded to expand the list of “crown jewels” events to include cricket, perhaps in its international Twenty20 form. A review is being carried out by David Davies a former Director of the Football Association and Darroch will argue strongly that the changing media landscape makes the idea of a protected list of events anachronistic.

They will present evidence that they claim shows that broadcasting events exclusively on pay TV does not have a detrimental effect on live attendances or reach. It will point to the fact that attendances at Premier League football and rugby union matches have increased over the years, despite both being shown exclusively on Sky, and that cricket participation and attendances have also gone up since its deal with the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Darroch said: “It’s not for me to dictate to a rights holder how they should sell their rights. What we want is the chance to pitch and show what we can do to showcase their sport. There is no such thing as free sports coverage. We all pay our licence fee.”


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