The FA Cup Final has been shown on free-to-air terrestrial TV for the best part of 50 years — but all that could change if BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) has anything to do with it. The sat-caster, in which News Corp (NSDQ: NWS) has a controlling stake, is launching a campaign to get the government to change the rules on “crown jewel” sporting events, which must be shown on free-to-air TV, arguing that Sky can give just as much public value and reach with its pay TV service. CEO Jeremy Darroch would like to see the football World Cup Final, FA Cup Final and the Olympics on his channels — or at least the chance to bid for them, something currently denied to pay-TV operators in the UK. As Darroch says (via Guardian.co.uk): “There is no such thing as free sports coverage. We all pay our licence fee.”
With Sky boosting investment on its online live-streaming Sky Player — for which you don’t need a Sky TV subscription — it could offer FIFA, the FA and the IOC a multi-media pitch across TV and online that dispels the criticism that pay-TV operators would fail to innovate in new media coverage as much as the publicly funded BBC. News Corp-owned Sky Italia already has the Italian rights for all Olympic Games between 2010 and 2016 while Fox Turkey has the rights for 2014 and 2016 in Turkey — so could we expect to be watching the 2012 games on Sky Sports or via Sky Player? Another option is to auction the online and TV rights separately, so it could be that BBC and Sky share some of the spoils. More after the jump….
The wheels are in motion in the shift from major sports events from free to pay TV: last year the International Olympics Committee controversially turned down the European Broadcasting Union’s bid for the 2014 Winter Games and the 2016 Summer Games and will negotiate on a country-by-country, broadcaster-by-broadcaster basis. For the first time, that opens to door to pay TV operators, though they must provide free coverage to at least 95 percent of the population although they can of course monetise their coverage through advertising and sponsorships.