Sky Sports, BT Sport, Virgin Media – where is all of my sport?
Punters being asked to stump up more and more as the coverage of sport fragments
It’ll take you up to the best part of €2,000 a year just to watch your mixture of sport. Photograph: Chris Radburn/PA
Here’s an exercise.
Let’s say you’re starting from scratch. Clean slate, new life, new you. All you want is an agreeable pile of bricks somewhere, a place to hang your coat and hat of an evening and, because you deserve it, your fill of sport on the television. You, being the sporting ecumenist that you are, hold neither beef nor bias for any sport so you want it all. And you want it now.
So you get your Sky Sports. Old school. Classic. You get your introductory offer, €50 a month and they throw in a free television. Happy days. After six months, that goes up to €70 a month. Bit tasty but look, you’ll get the use out of it. You’re all about the soccer, obviously. You love the bit of golf on a Sunday night. Winter is coming and that means the NFL. And sure come summer time, they always have a heap of hurling and football games and you can’t be missing those. Seventy quid a month it is.
But you love your rugby as well. And from next month onwards the vast majority of Champions Cup and Pro 14 games will be on BT Sport and Eir Sport.
Signing up to that package means you get more soccer into the bargain – Premier League, Champions League, Europa League. They’ll give you the first three months for a euro a month so it’s game ball. After that, you’re looking at €27.50 a month. Or you can go the whole hog and get it for €245 a year.
TV3’s big facelift next month will bring the Virgin Sports Media channel kicking and screaming into the world – that’s another €20 a month. From January onwards, all Irish horse racing and most of the good stuff in England will be high-tailing it to Racing UK – bang goes another €31 a month. Tot it all up and once the first-hit-is-free offer melt away, you’re looking at a cool €1,782 a year.
Into this mix, the fine people at streaming service ElevenSports.com have announced themselves over the past few weeks. After pulling off the coup of signing up the UK and Ireland rights to La Liga and Serie A a couple of days before Cristiano Ronaldo signed for Juventus, they’re also the only place you can go next month to watch the USPGA Championship, the year’s last golf Major.
In keeping with tradition, they’re giving you this taste for nothing. After that, well, they haven’t announced their pricing structure but if it’s in the region of €15 a month, it’ll take you up to the best part of €2,000 a year just to watch your bit of sport. You deserve it, champ. Go for it.
Whatever about the wedge involved, the sheer abundance of locations you need to be connected to these days in order to feed the sports drip is dizzying. Free TV, pay TV, streaming channels, Facebook Live, all that jazz.
The advent of something like ElevenSports was always going to come along. In the US, Amazon are streaming Thursday Night Football, beating Twitter, Facebook and Youtube to pay €50m for the contract to show 10 games a season. Facebook has exclusive Major League Baseball games and more than half of Twitter’s live content is sport.
Question is, how will you keep track of it all?
Short of becoming a dreadful soak and handing that €2k a year across to your local barkeep in the hope that he has all the channels tucked away in your favourite spot in the corner, it’s going to become harder and harder to keep pace.
Sports coverage is clearly set to fragment more and more as time goes by. Smart TVs are the likely growth industry, a one-stop delivery system for all the different outlets. There are only so many screens you can have going at the one time before you question your life choices, after all.
Or maybe not. A young person of my acquaintance, upon being asked around the time of the McGregor-Mayweather fight last year whether he and his friends were pooling their cash to stump up for it, looked back at me with bafflement, something almost approaching pity.
“Why would we pay for it?” he said. “We’ll just find a link.”
In a muddled future, the one guarantee is that someone will always have a scam going to work around it all.