UK quad-play operator Virgin Media has asked UK comms regulator Ofcom to open a formal investigation under the Competition Act 1998 into the arrangements by which the FA Premier League sells live UK television rights to its games. Virgin Media considers that significant consumer harm resulting from escalating rights costs can be addressed by targeted changes to the way in which live rights are sold, while preserving the benefits of joint selling. It suggests that a review is required with the next auction imminent and a further 60 per cent inflation in costs predicted.
Brigitte Trafford, Virgin Media’s Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, said the rapidly rising cost of Premier League live broadcast rights means that UK fans pay the highest prices in Europe to watch football on TV. “Virgin Media has asked Ofcom to investigate how the rights are sold ahead of the next auction,” she confirmed.
Despite Trafford’s assertion, a recent report from a report from Comparaiso.es suggests that Spain has become the most expensive country in Europe to watch football on television with an average cost of €52.10 per viewer, ahead of the UK with €49.80.
According to the price comparison website, Italy is the cheapest with €14.00, followed by Portugal, €27.99; France, €36.80 and Germany with €39.90. For the supporters of the largest clubs such as Real Madrid and Barcelona, the bill is even higher. “If [Spaniards] want to watch all the matches of their teams they have to pay more than double the rest of fans since there isn’t a single channel that includes all matches”, says the report.
“Watching football on TV is becoming a real luxury with millions of people unable to have access,” advises Alicia Navas, Country Manager of Comparaiso.es, on the grounds that viewers have to subscribe to different pay-TV platforms (Canal Plus Liga, Canal Plus 1, Movistar TV, Gol TV, among others) to watch all the matches.
For online transmission, the most expensive country is the UK with an average cost of €54.92, way ahead of France, €12 a month or Spain, €18.15.