Premier League retains preference for rights deals over direct-to-consumer, Bush says

The Premier League will continue to prefer broadcast-rights deals despite its moves to raise its capacity to adopt a direct-to-consumer model in the next cycle, the league’s executive director, Bill Bush has said.

Speaking today (Tuesday) at the Westminster Media Forum in London, he said: “We’ve done a fair bit of direct-to-consumer testing and obviously we’d move in a flash if that’s where we thought the consumer was… but at the moment the balance is still very much with a territorial broadcaster.”

The comments follow Premier League chief executive Richard Masters’ recent statement that the league would eventually shift to a mix of direct-to-consumer and traditional media rights sales.

But the Premier League would experience a number of difficulties if it approached the consumer directly, according to Bush.

He said: “We might get less money because [the broadcasters] know their market better than we do, and that’s probably right for 95 per cent of the countries that we sell into to; they’re more willing to take a risk than we are; also they monetise it in a range of ways that are not available to us.

“We’ve got rights-holders who are using the audio visual for their sports or drama, whatever it is that that they’ve got in front of their public, but they’re [also] selling broadband subscriptions, telephony, mobile phone handsets.”

Bush added that such difficulties meant that the intermediary model would remain the one that sports rights-holders resort to first, regardless of whether the intermediary was a traditional or OTT broadcaster.

He remarked: “The important thing is to understand the experience the fan wants, work out how you can best bring that into the marketplace and then you want a range of people willing to bid.”

Nevertheless, Bush added that sports rights-holders should develop the capacity to move to direct-to-consumer at “relatively short notice” because of the market-management and data-gathering opportunities it presents.

He said: “If people who want your output know you can go direct-to-consumer, then they’ll have to enter the market with that knowledge, and in a number of territories around the world, where you only have really one cable company for example, you don’t want to be hostage to a market of one.”

The league was close to launching an OTT service in Singapore in the current cycle, but changed tack at the last minute after clubs pushed for the safety of a traditional broadcast deal.

Bush also said that internet giant Amazon did not share all the key data with the Premier League from the two matchweeks it streamed in December as part of its debut coverage.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas recently raised the issue of access to consumer data in any rights agreement the Spanish league could sign with Amazon.