SNATCHING PUNTERS LOOT?
The SPL has announced that it will set up
its own TV channel to be operative from the start of next
season. At first glance this seems like a great idea.
The present satellite offering of Scottish football is restricted
to one live match per week and an hour-long highlights programme
livened up by the incomprehensible and ungrammatical nonsense
of Charlie Nicholas - surely the natural successor
to the recently deceased Stanley Unwin as the master of gobbledygook!
Charlie recently described a bout of fisticuffs on the pitch
as two players "having an excursion."
But hold on a minute. What would a dedicated
SPL channel look like, and how much would it cost? SPL chairmen
think that if they take about a quarter of Sky's current
Scottish viewers then that will compensate for the amount
they currently receive from the broadcaster. That's around
270,000 subscriptions needed BEFORE they factor in
the additional costs of production and massive extra programming.
Now obviously they are not going to get that
amount of people simply adding the new channel to their existing
package. Something has to give and the SPL are assuming that
Scots fans will simply dump the rest of Sky's sports content
in favour of the native product.
While conceding that the vast majority of Scottish
viewers primary sporting interest is watching Scottish football,
it is also right to assume that a significant minority will
not give up Sky's additional menu of English Premiership,
Bundesliga, La Liga, cricket, golf (including the Ryder
Cup), boxing, tennis etc. Nor does the SPL channel
automatically guarantee that it will show lower division football
or the Scottish Cup.
Let's assume also that there are some misguided
souls out there who aren't interested in football and take
out a satellite subscription for the movies, documentaries,
who knows, maybe even the shopping channels! Add them to the
sports refuseniks and you can see that the SPL will have a
battle on their hands to get the requisite number of viewers.
And all this for a channel which will not
show any more live matches than under the current deal.
FilmFour and Artsworld offer an eclectic range
of programmes for around £6 per month. The SPL are offering
the same old stuff for around the same figure, or more. And
it gets worse. Even though a dedicated SPL channel will be
a pay-per-view channel in all but name, the high heid yins
want to charge even more for 'big matches' (i.e. Old
This doesn't even begin to add up. Pay
more money and get the same, or less as now? Welcome to the
strange world of the SPL. And who will make the programmes?
Only one company - Wark Clements - has been mooted
so far. What level of free speech will be permitted? Can anyone
seriously imagine a boring 0-0 draw being described in anything
but lavish terms? Look for the slightest hint of criticism
of the Murdoch press from Sky. If you find any
then I stand corrected. But until then I maintain that an
SPL channel will brook no criticism of SPL matches.
At least at present SOME freedom of speech
is permitted. Even the linguistically-challenged Nicholas
can get hot under the collar at times. Witness his demand
for a root and branch clear-out at the SFA after the World
Cup debacle. Or his scathing condemnation of Rangers after
the cup tie at Berwick when he declared that only four
of the starting eleven should be kept at the club.
To compound the folly, what equipment would
a viewer need in order to be able to watch the new channel?
That's right - a Sky dish, box and viewing card. The same
as now. In fact there may even be FEWER viewers
as there is no guarantee that ITV Digital will show
the SPL channel. At present their subscribers have access
And ITV Digital is a warning of what may lie
in store. Their dedicated channel ITV Sport is struggling
to survive despite the fact that it has the Nationwide
League, the Football League Cup and the biggie
- the Champions League. But the biggest danger to the
SPL channel may be internal. They say they will model their
channel on existing ones such as MUTV (a dreadful prospect
in itself). But what happens if the Old Firm set up their
own channels? What price the SPL then?
The chairmen of the other clubs think they have
got a good deal because they have tied the Old Firm to remaining
in Scotland for the foreseeable future. A Pyrrhic victory!
As this website has long predicted, no one else wants
the Old Firm. As Aberdeen's chief executive Keith
Wyness so memorably put it the Old Firm are like "
two old girls in Sauchiehall Street, lifting their skirts
to any League that walks past."
And for what? A trip to Tranmere in the Worthington
Cup? Once again the big two have conned the others. They said
they wanted to leave when they had nowhere to go to. Then
said they'd stay provided the rest agreed to give them the
lion's share of the TV money. And after gobbling up all the
cash, they'll continue to complain about lack of competition!
Of course it could all be a ploy in an attempt
to force Sky to up the ante. If so it's unlikely to succeed
as the matches will end up being shown on the Sky platform
anyway but with Sky saving on production. Happily, John
Boyle assures us this is not the case. As the Motherwell
chairman is well-versed in delivering an overpaid, under-performing
team watched by an ever-diminishing audience, perhaps it's
only right that he is the standard-bearer for SPL TV.
- Satellite Punters
It looks as though the fears expressed here
about the SPL's pay-per-view/stand alone TV channel
are about to be confirmed.
Far from being the well-researched, ready-to-launch
station SPL chiefs have promised, it seems the bosses don't
have a clue about what to do. Why else would they send a questionnaire
out to clubs giving them just three days to get fans responses
to the channel? So much for the prior market research they
promised they had undertaken.
How much will it cost? Anything from £8
to £18 per month, if the questionnaire is anything
to go by. Far in excess of any single channel currently on
offer. The £8 package would buy only what is currently
available on Sky and even the £18 option will leave
two old firm games and many others subject to an additional
Time, surely, to give up this pipe dream and
get back to the negotiating table before our hard-pressed
clubs throw away money they don't have.