The Premier League has brought an end to its brief flirtation with pay-per-view soccer in the United Kingdom, confirming that it will air every match until the end of 2020 through its traditional broadcast partners.
Confirmation of the news to scrap pay-per-view, which was implemented for games in October and November, will be seen as a victory for fan power after the league’s decision to charge supporters nearly $20 (£14.95) per match to view some fixtures.
Though the Premier League says it will reassess its broadcasting plans in the new year it is seen as impossible that PPV will return in the near future. Clubs had hoped it could help supplement their losses in matchday income but it brought criticism from supporters, pundits and even government.
All matches between now and Christmas will be shown by Sky Sports, BT Sport, Amazon Prime and BBC. The latter has been handed the game between Fulham and Everton on Sunday November 22, meaning free to air football in the United Kingdom will return after a brief run of fixtures during the Premier League’s Project Restart.
“There is a full schedule of Premier League matches over the festive period and clubs are committed to an accessible solution for fans,” the league said in a statement.
“These plans have been made with the cooperation of our broadcast partners, working with us to deliver these additional matches while stadiums are missing the supporters who are such an integral part of the game.
“The agreement will be reviewed in the new year following consultation with clubs, broadcast partners and in line with any decisions made by Government regarding the return of spectators to stadiums. The Premier League and our clubs remain committed to the safe return of fans as soon as possible.”
In total 11 top flight matches were screened on either Sky Sports Box Office or its BT Sport equivalent between October 26 and November 8. With supporters currently banned from attending football fixtures across the United Kingdom the pay per view service was the only legal method available to British supporters if they wanted to see their team in action.
Despite that take up for the service was remarkably low with figures from the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board revealing that Newcastle United vs Manchester United received just 40,000 viewers. Both clubs average home attendances significantly in excess of that number.
Instead many supporter groups opted to urge fans to donate their money to local good causes. Leeds United Supporters Trust had raised over $52,000 for local food banks before kick-off in their game against Aston Villa whilst Islington Giving received around $60,000 from Arsenal supporters thanks to a donation drive led by their supporters trust.
“Arsenal Supporters Trust welcomes the scrapping of the pay per view fee,” a spokesperson for the group told CBS Sports. “We had constructive dialogue with Arsenal about our concerns and are pleased that they listened and changed the policy.”
It did not escape the notice of many British supporters that they are already charged significantly more to watch every game their team plays than many around the world. The cost of Sky and BT Sport alone is up to $60 per month whilst viewers in countries such as the USA and Germany might pay one-sixth of that.