While he didn’t reveal all the finer details, Masters did confirm to UK media that streaming matches directly to the consumer could be an option as early as 2022, when the next rights cycle kicks in.
The launch of an OTT service would not eliminate the Premier League’s method of selling media rights to traditional broadcasters and third-party streaming services, with Masters suggesting instead that the competition will adopt a more mixed approach in the future.
Masters’ comments come a year after it was reported that the Premier League considered trialling an OTT service in Singapore, before opting to sign a three-year extension of its deal with telecommunications company Singtel.
“During the last [rights bidding] process [for the 2019-2022 seasons], we invested a lot of time and resources in building our expertise and capacity in direct-to-consumer,” Masters told reporters.
“We considered whether strategically it would be the right time to test a few markets then and decided not to.
“We were ready last time and we will be ready next time, should the opportunity arise. I’m not saying it will happen in the next cycle, or when it will happen, but eventually the Premier League will move to a mix of direct-to-consumer and media rights sales.
“There is risk associated with it. Sports competitions like the Premier League have been successful in seeking partnerships with established broadcasters and having to secure funding as its model. Secured licensed revenue and direct-to-consumer revenue are entirely different strategies – the transition from one to the other, if and when it ever happens, would be a big moment.”
The Premier League suffered a slight drop in the value of its domestic rights during the last sales process, but an uptick overseas saw the competition bring in a total UK£9.2 billion (AU$17.7 billion) for the three-year cycle from 2019 to 2022, representing an increase of eight per cent.
They have already started selling rights for the 2022 to 2025 cycle. Swedish media giant Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT Group) was the first to announce a deal last week, signing a landmark six-year contract covering Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland which was reported by UK media to be worth a whopping UK£2 billion (AU$3.8 billion).
“We have every reason to be optimistic about the future of sports rights,” Masters said.
“I don’t think the bubble has burst because our business is effectively hedged between domestic performance and international.
“The domestic rights did go down by a small margin last time round, but off the back of two big leaps. International revenue has continued to grow and I have no reason to believe it won’t continue to do so.”
However, according to analysis by the Daily Mail, the Premier League could stand to significantly increase its revenue by switching from traditional media rights sales to a global OTT service.
Based on the estimation that the Premier League has 200 million fans worldwide currently paying to watch the competition, the UK newspaper calculated that a UK£10 monthly subscription would theoretically see the league rake in UK£24 billion (AU$46.3 billion) each year.
The Premier League would not be the first major European soccer rights holder to launch its own OTT service. UEFA, the continental governing body, launched its free Uefa.tv service last year, while Spain’s La Liga runs LaLigaSportsTV, which aims to boost the visibility and exposure of all Spanish sport, while it also streamed a number of major pre-season soccer games last summer.
Next season Germany’s Bundesliga is launching an OTT platform for live matches in key markets where it does not receive an adequate rights bid.