Summary:

News reports (Mail Online, Telegraph.co.uk) that *Apple* and *Google* may bid for 2013-16 Premier League live broadcast rights are almost ce…

Soccer (football) ball in goal net
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News reports (Mail Online, Telegraph.co.uk) that *Apple* and *Google* may bid for 2013-16 Premier League live broadcast rights are almost certainly wide of the post.

Although the pair retail, rent and show a growing array of content like music, TV and movies, it is all either uploaded by or licensed from actual content owners. Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and Google (NSDQ: GOOG) are technology companies, providing only access to and distribution of content; owning that content would be expensive, unnecessary and out of character.

Premier League’s 2013-16 broadcast negotiations are expected to start this summer. Here’s who currently owns rights for the 2010/11, 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons…

Package Rights Holder

UK Live A, B, C, E, F

5 x 23 live matches

BSkyB

UK Live D

1 x 23 live matches

ESPN

UK Near-Live

(1) Full replay of a 3pm game (rightsholder choice)
(2) 50-minute replay of day’s games (viewer choice)

BSkyB

UK Highlights

Up to 30 mins per game

BBC

UK Online Highlights

Clips

Yahoo

UK Mobile Highlights

Clips from all 380 matches, minutes after live action

ESPN

Overseas

All 380 matches live, on-demand, all platforms. See all.

US: *Fox* Sports, sub-let to ESPN

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So what could happen next?

  • Google, Apple won’t bid for live. At a total £1.78 billion for the current total live rights – an average of £4.3 million per match – even they don’t need to spend so big.
  • Al Jazeera Sports is expected to show interest in some UK live packs. It is heavily-financed and has been buying up many French soccer rights. It could outbid ESPN (NYSE: DIS), bid up the price Sky must pay to renew or reduce Sky’s roster to four packs.
  • Overseas, Al Jazeera Sports could outbid rivals in many territories for combined, multi-platform rights.
  • Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) could lose: Perform Group, flush from its 2011 IPO, could outbid troubled Yahoo for UK online highlights. Currently, Perform does online highlights in Spain and India.
  • Google, Apple for overseas online highlights? Much cheaper. Unlikely Apple would bid. YouTube could cure its court case against the league by laying down cash to properly license clips, stealing them from Yahoo.
  • Clubs go more solo: The Premier League is unlikely to devolve significant rights to clubs, but already clubs can post match highlights from midnight on the day after a given game. Expect more clubs to exploit that.
  • Premier League sells direct? Could the league do what tournaments like MLB and NBA do with MLB.tv, offering direct subscriptions to fans through gadgets like Apple TV? There are no signs yet of it carving out such a new package, which could devalue Sky’s own offering. But broadcasters’ own services, like Sky Go, could, in theory, eventually be offered over a Google TV or Apple TV.

YouTube has already snapped up rights to live-stream India’s IPL cricket tournament outside the U.S. and delayed Major League Baseball games in Japan. But these were unexploited or fringe rights. Google is unlikely to want to go up against major western broadcasters for top-tier domestic packages in a tournament as prestigious and cash-intensive as the Premier League.

Fear that goliaths like Apple and Google want to own content is growing in an entertainment business watching them plan their own smart TV systems. Even a Wall Street analyst, Bernstein Research’s Claudio Aspesi, echoed the sentiment in a recent research note…

“Apple’s popularity and attractiveness as a distribution channel may well drive rights owners to seek deals with it, or use the threat to strike agreements with Apple to drive up the price of exclusivity. Moreover, as European regulators are turning increasingly hostile to exclusive contracts, it may prove impossible for Pay TV companies to keep key premium content away from Apple.

Google could fund the cumulative losses for BSkyB (made earlier on in its operating history, from 1999 to 2002, before breaking even) in 125 days.”

Such speculation that Apple wants to do some kind of deal with U.S. cable companies. But the TV companies are by far in a dominant position – BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) boxes are installed in 10 million UK homes, for example. That’s not something the current Apple TV box can say; an integrated Apple TV set will likely be a product so premium it may command a niche market.

In the DNA of both Google and Apple is access, not ownership.

ESPN tells paidContent: “The Premier League is a world-class sports property and cornerstone programming for our business in the UK. We would clearly like to continue delivering Premier League content to UK sports fans.”

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