177 Sites Illegally Streaming Premier League Football
The FA Premier League (FAPL) has revealed that during the 2007/8 season, it identified 177 different sites ‘which contained or were connected to unauthorised streaming of Premier League football matches’. The FAPL made its announcement in response to the UK Government’s Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform’s consultation on peer-to-peer (p2p) file sharing. The FAPL said that of those sites, 122 (63%) used p2p technology to distribute the content.
The figures illustrate what a tough job the FAPL faces in policing illegal content, and in retaining the value of its rights deal when it comes to renegotiate its rights package for 2010-2013. The value of the FAPL rights deals have continued to rise due to the exclusivity that it creates for its rights holders. If that exclusivity disappears, then the value of those rights could fall, and p2p streaming adds a third threat to the exclusivity of those rights.
The first threat concerns whether decoders can be used to watch matches broadcast by legitimate broadcasters in other Member States. The High Court is currently waiting for a ruling on this from the European Court of Justice. The second threat involves Ofcom’s continuing consultation into the pay-TV market in the UK, which could force BSkyB to allow other broadcasters to screen FAPL football. These potential pitfalls are examined in detail in the January edition of World Sports Law Report.