Friday, May 13, 2005

13 May 2005: Glazed

Richard Scudamore, the Chief Executive of the Premier League, says that Malcolm Glazer's takeover of Manchester United will have no affect on any future TV rights deals. Although the contract with Sky is up for renewal next year, Scudamore says that Glazer would have to garner support of fourteen of the twenty Premier League clubs in order to break up the cartel and allow clubs to deal with their TV rights on an individual basis. And that, says Scudamore, isn't going to happen.

Richard, you know what? That's not the point. Everyone, including the normally on-the-ball BBC, is talking this morning about how Glazer has gone into debt in a big way to fund this takeover. And how is he going to recoup the money? Ticket price hikes, merchandising (which, incidentally, Manchester United have no control over - they've sold their entire merchandising operation to Nike and thus have no say these days) and getting more money for the TV rights. But Sky aren't going to pay any more, and the Prem clubs aren't going to vote for a move that's financially bad for the vast majority of them. Thus everyone assumes Glazer wants to break up the cartel and sell United's TV rights on his own.

No! It's nothing to do with the TV market! At least - it's nothing to do with the UK TV market. You know where the biggest Man U fan base is? Not Manchester (ha ha!), nor even Surrey. Try South-East Asia. Of course, the Premier League also sell their overseas TV rights as a bundle too, but you know what that means? It means I was last week able to watch the Saints - Crystal Palace game at 3pm on a Saturday on ESPN StarSports Hong Kong over the internet (cough). I watched Crouchy's sending off and Higgy's last-minute equaliser, and his over-the-top celebrations given Saints needed a win not a draw. I saw it, live. On the net. On the net, BBC.

I refer confused readers to the blog I wrote a few weeks ago. Technology allows the streaming of live sporting events across the globe on a subscription-paying basis. Major League Baseball have a very solid implementation of this business model. Glazer knows that south-east Asia has greater access to high-speed broadband internet than anywhere else in the world, and what's their favourite sporting brand? Manchester United. That's where he's going with this. That's where he - and any other sports organisation with such a following - is going to make money. And that is my only fear with this takeover, that somehow Glazer will turn it into an internet success. That's my fear.

My hope, as always, is to see Man U relegated to the conference and have to play Exeter City in a relegation dogfight down there.

By the way, congratulations to Gareth and Helen on the arrival of Imogen Louise.

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