Football is a sport that has only increased in popularity in recent years, with the desire to watch the beautiful game massive in many countries across the world. While the Premier League may be seen as the most popular domestic club competition to watch, that is not to say that Germany, Spain, Italy, France and other nations do not have huge interest in watching games each week. This increase in interest means that those fans or neutrals that are unable to go to games due to other commitments, distance, financial reasons or anything else can still get involved with watching the match.
One question that has been asked by most fans is how the broadcasters choose which games to show? After all, it stands to reason that each set of fans should be able to watch their team play live on a subscription platform, with fans of the smaller teams deserving to see how their side fares too. In this guide, we will take a look at who decides which teams play live, why the bigger teams are usually on TV more and much more.
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How Do They Decide Which Premier League Matches Are Shown?
The reveal of the Premier League fixtures is usually quickly followed by a second announcement that showcases the matches that will be shown in the earlier parts of the season. For example, in the 2022/23 Premier League fixtures being announced, Sky Sports were already pushing their offering of matches.
For the 2022/23 season, Sky announced that they would televise Crystal Palace vs Arsenal on Friday, August 5th as their first game of the campaign and the season opener. They also selected Everton vs Chelsea, Manchester United vs Brighton ad West Ham vs Manchester City, with the former appearing on Saturday and the following two making up Sunday’s offering.
For BT Sport, the broadcaster chose Fulham vs Liverpool as their first early Saturday kick-off of the season. As is always the way, these announcements were met by the derision of fans of smaller teams, who cite that their sides are always overlooked unless they are playing one of the top four. Of course, this makes sense as five of the top six feature in the first weekend, with only Tottenham not shown in the opening three days of the competition.
This is incredibly frustrating for fans of the ‘smaller’ teams, but the big six are the sides that bring in the biggest audiences from both a domestic and international standpoint, which is why they are so often the sides to feature.
The way the matches are worked out is through a series of packages, with the rights for the seasons across 2021-2025 selling for around £4.8 billion. These remained with Sky, BT and Amazon. Just over 50% of all the Premier League games are shown live, with 200 of the 380 televised.
Packages Available for Broadcasters
These matches are split into seven packages that are titled A, B, C, D, E, F and G. These packages each contain different clusters of matches, although they will invariably be broken down into specific time periods.
Kick-Off Time – Saturday 12:30
Number of Matches – 32
Kick-Off Time – Saturday 17:30
Number of Matches – 32
Kick-Off Time – (24 matches at) Sunday 14:00 and (eight matches at) Sunday 19:45
Number of Matches – 32
Kick-Off Time – Sunday 16:30
Number of Matches – 32
Kick-Off Time – (24 matches at) Monday 20:00 or Friday 19:30-20:00 (and eight matches at) Sunday 14:00
Number of Matches – 32
Kick-Off Time – Each of the 20 matches from one Bank Holiday and one mid-week fixture programme
Number of Matches – 20
Kick-off time – Each of the 20 matches from two midweek fixture programmes
Number of Matches – 20
Which Broadcasters Show the Premier League?
In the UK, the broadcast of the Premier League is dominated by Sky, BT and Amazon. The BBC currently have the rights to show highlights of all of the fixtures across the weekend in their Match of the Day programme, but this does not allow fans to watch the entire game, with matches cut down to just a few minutes each.
Sky Sports dominates coverage of the Premier League right now. Sky shows a total of 128 matches a season, with the rights to Packages B, C, D and E. BT Sport boast packages A and G, meaning they show a total of 52 games in a season, while new boys Amazon Prime can show 20 matches after purchasing Package F.
What Are Picks?
Picks are basically designed to give broadcasters the first, second, third, fourth or fifth pick of matches on any given weekend. The big slot is seen as Sky Sports’ Sunday 16:30 slot. With a total of 32 matches, Sky has the first pick on 19 of those, meaning that the biggest and best games will usually be selected in this time slot.
While Sky has a range of picks from first to fifth, BT Sport has to remain contented with 20 second picks and 12 fifth picks for the Saturday 12:30 slot. Amazon is a little different as they can show two match-weeks in a season. This means that they will not have the pressure of deciding which the biggest game to show is. This sort of dilemma would become a problem if the big six are all playing each-other, there are local derbies further down the table and relegation fights elsewhere.
Do the Big Six Get Preferential Treatment?
Technically, each and every team must be shown in a number of the packages in the Premier League. For Package A, which is BT Sport’s 12:30 slot on Saturday, they have to select each team at least once, while the most a team can be selected in that slot is six times, with this the same for Sky Sports’ 17:30 pick on Saturdays.
The Saturday 19:45 and Sunday 16:30 slots require a team to be shown at least twice, while no side can feature more than five times. For the Monday 20:00/Friday 19:30/20:00 and the Sunday 14:00, there is no minimum number of times a side needs to be selected, although a side cannot be chosen more than five times in one campaign.
These rules are clearly designed to ensure that the big six are not the only sides to be shown on TV. After all, it makes sense from a business perspective to only show what sells the best. However, for fans of the sides outside of the top teams, this would be incredibly unfair, and it would likely see those supporters decide against paying for subscriptions.
Similarly, for a broadcaster that has the lower picks, they would never be able to show the best games if there was not restriction on the broadcasters with the first few picks. This way, each broadcaster will have to adhere to the rules, meaning that there will be weekends in which the top six do not feature as much on a certain channel, meaning the clubs outside of the traditional top six can play to a live TV audience.
Do Matches Shown on TV Make It Harder for Fans at the Games?
The television schedule for some of the matches can make it very tough for some fans to make it to different games across the season. Matches on a Saturday are generally seen as the easiest to get to, with 15:00 kick-offs providing ample time for the supporters to get from their homes to the game.
Of course, this may not be true of a fan moving from the bottom of the country to the top, although these fans will usually have to make alternate arrangements to ensure they do not miss the game.
However, if a team is playing on Friday or Monday night, the 20:00 kick-off may be too early for many fans to get from work to a game. Most jobs will end at 17:00 or later, and this means that if a fan is to get on the road at 17:30, they will only have to and a half hours to get from their place of work to the game and get through security before taking their seat.
For an Arsenal fan that lives in London, this would not likely be a major problem given the frequency of trains in the city. However, if that same Arsenal fan has bought tickets to see the Gunners play against Newcastle in the 20:00 kick-off on a Monday, then things are slightly more awkward.
Why Are There No 15:00 Premier League Kick-Offs on TV?
There has been a blackout on Premier League matches at 15:00 for years, and this has continued despite the huge popularity of the league both on TV and at the stadiums themselves. The majority of the matches will be played in this slot, but they are not able to be shown on TV, with this the same for matches in the Football League and FA Cup.
This blackout began in the 1960s, where Bob Lord, who was the chairman of Burnley, convinced other chairmen that matches being televised would negatively impact the attendance of some games.
It stood to reason that a fan of a lower league side would likely prefer to watch the top two in the top league face off on TV, rather than in what could be a drab clash involving their own team. This would likely affect the income of lower leagues and sides, with the attendance at the game likely to fall.
This rule is still in place, and you will notice that even matches in leagues outside of the UK will be subject to this blackout. This is why the coverage of the La Liga matches that were shown on Sky at 17:00 began after 15 minutes had already passed in the game to be in accordance with this blackout between 14:45 and 17:15.
Is Watching the Premier League on TV Expensive?
The simple answer to this is yes. If you want to watch all of the 200 games shown on TV from the Premier League, you will need subscriptions to Sky, BT Sport and Amazon Prime. As of the end of the season in 2021, the cheapest Sky Sports package will require you to get Sky and then add a Sky Sports bundle, with this starting at around £41 per month. Over a standard 18-month contract, this will cost you around £738. You can select the Sky package that offers Sky Sports and BT Sport, with this starting from £58 per month, meaning you will spend £1,044 per year.
For the 52 games that BT Sport show, you would have to buy into a 24-month contract, with the cheapest sports package available for £15. This means that, if you decided to get Sky Sports and BT Sports separately, you would have to add on a further £340 over 24 months for their basic sports package.
Finally, Amazon Prime can show 20 games over two match-weeks. For those that are particularly savvy, someone can get involved with a 30-day free trial and cancel Amazon Prime before the start of the first paid month. It is worth noting that these figures were correct in May 2021.
BBC’s Match of the Day
Ultimately, watching football on TV is very expensive, with the standard customer having to fork out a lot of money if they are to pay for access to all three of the different broadcasters. This is why the BBC’s Match of the Day has become so popular over the years. The ability to pay for a TV licence will grant viewers access to most standard channels, and with this license, you can watch the BBC and access BBC iPlayer. From here, you can watch the highlights of each game that is shown by BBC across the season, with the cost of paying for live games something that standard football fan simply cannot do.
Should Less Games Be Shown on TV?
For those that are unable to get to matches, TV broadcasters showing the games is vital. The ability to watch a match on TV is so important as some fans live in foreign countries, cannot travel to matches for a range of reasons or are just too busy. From a financial point of view, the broadcasting of the Premier League brings in huge revenue as people in England, the UK and the world watch football in the best league on the planet. Getting rid of this revenue could prove catastrophic for the game we know and love.
From the point of view of the stadiums and clubs, it would likely drive up the numbers of fans at the games. After all, if a supporter is unable to see their team play on TV, then they are more likely to head to the stadium to watch the game live instead. For the players, more fans in the stadiums usually means a better atmosphere in the ground, which could even see the quality at each match ramped up to new levels with droves of passionate supporters cramming into stadiums to watch their favourite teams and players go to battle.