Football streaming websites have been a billion dollar loophole in the football rights business ever since broadband made it possible to stream live video content. The days of bypassing TV subscription fees via a simple Google search may now be over though, as the Premium League begin their biggest crackdown yet on football streaming websites.
Its been a summer of big news around football rights already with BT’s acquisition of one of the major packages, and their subsequent decision to make the 38 live games available for free to their internet subscribers. This has sparked a broadband war which is set to deplete the margins that companies like Sky are achieving on the football, all of which is likely to make them take piracy more seriously.
The crackdown begins with the firstrow.eu website, which has long been a popular source of live premium league football. The Swedish based operation will be blocked by the ISPs, who are not currently putting up any resistance to the crackdown according to the BBC.
Presuming the block goes through, this will be the first example of a sports related website being blocked in the UK. Football is not the only area being targeted at the moment, with the popular Pirate Bay website – where users share downloads and files – recently being blocked in the UK.
Buoyed on by the success of BMI in getting the Pirate Bay website banned, the Premier League is now increasingly confident that they can finally put an end to live streaming of their content.
In their latest round of action, they have written to every UK-based Internet Service Provider, where they have outlined a possible court case. Historically, the ISPs have always claimed that they will not act unless ordered to do so by a UK court of law. The Premier League have given the ISPs until Friday to signal their desire to counteract this court order, and at the time of writing, no ISPs have chosen to challenge.
Will BT’s stake in the Premier League change their attitude?
Historically there have been two very different attitudes taken by Sky and BT’s ISP teams with regards to this matter. Sky, as the long-term rights holder to the Premier League have historically taken a sympathetic view to the copyright holder. BT have taken quite the opposite stance, meaning that when Sky have voluntarily blocked copyright violated content, BT have taken the cases to court to standup for the ISP industry as a whole.
Now though, BT have just invested 4 million short of a quarter of a billion pounds sterling in their
UK football package. Remembering that they will (largely at least) not be recouping this back through subscriptions, taking away the shorter route to profitability on this deal – they will be under more pressure to make this pay. Their big USP will be their ‘free’ positioning, but this will be undermined if the consumer knows they can get BT’s 38 live games (plus many more) for free on the internet anyway.
It might be a different story if the ‘free’ internet loophole was to suddenly close though?