Anecdotal evidence would suggest that Britain’s love affair with live televised sport may be cooling.
The days when an arbitrary mix of ‘footie and films’ underpinned broadcasters’ business plans and persuaded millions to buy into satellite and cable TV have long since disappeared.
Having attracted enormous subscriber databases, however, broadcasters’ commercial emphasis has shifted; most are now focused on selling broadband and telephone packages to what, for the time being at least, remains an inert, captive audience.
Recent figures released by BSkyB for the quarterly accounting period to September 30 would appear to support this premise, for while the company’s revenue rose by 9% compared with 2010 and customer numbers increased by 77,000, further analysis suggests these figures are not as impressive as they first seem.
Only around one third (26,000) of Sky’s new customers were television subscribers, lower than in the comparable period last year, although the company does not say how many of these subscribed for Sky Sports.
Nonetheless, Sky report that: “…average Premier League audiences were up 18% year on year and Champions League matches featuring home nations teams were 27% higher.”
Clubs that have grown used to the steady inflow of broadcaster’s funds would do well to note Sky has slashed it’s marketing budget by £32 million.
Indeed, according to a report published by accountants KPMG, there is a case for clubs to become less reliant upon income generated from broadcasters and to focus on boosting matchday receipts.
At present, KPMG calculate that clubs in Europe’s major leagues generate around 46% of their income from broadcasters and a further 34% from “other sources”. Only 20% comes from matchday receipts.
“Football is a concentrated market,” says the report. “Just over 10% of clubs generate almost 70% of the total revenues of top-division clubs in Europe…Approximately 80% of clubs (with turnover exceeding €50 million) play in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. It is no coincidence that these are the five largest countries with the most significant consumer power in the EU.”
However, when consumer spending is dramatically reined in, as is presently the case, it is discretionary expenditure, such as subscriptions to satellite channels, which is usually first to go.
Many football clubs are already mindful of this and a significant number offer a succession of 2-for-3 ticketing deals, cheaper tickets for youngsters and packages including stadia tours or a half-time burger.
Those capable of doing so should continue to consider how best to generate a greater level of income from their stadium as the possibility that broadcast receipts may have plateaued and could stagnate cannot be discounted.
Yet as KPMG point out, this process is likely to be most difficult in the UK.
The firm undertook a review of the average age of stadia in Europe’s 22 largest leagues and found that the oldest were, not surprisingly, in Scotland and England.
Though facilities at ageing British stadia have been regularly upgraded, the accountants’ report concluded that, “…if new stadia with contemporary design and facilities replaced the old ones, the revenue generation of clubs in these leagues could (probably) be improved.”
It continued: “Another telling conclusion…is that the leagues with more contemporary stadia are typically in those countries that have (recently) hosted a major international tournament.”
Across Europe, most football stadia are publicly-owned (only in the UK and Norway does the proportion of privately-owned stadia exceed 50%), although the majority of the continent’s leading clubs own their own grounds as they’re deemed to be “one of their key revenue-generating assets.”
Yet there are significant variations in the volume of revenues generated from what KPMG call ‘stadium-related services’.