MUCH like there remain questions to be answered over the Liam Fox-Adam Werritty affair, the recent European judgement on foreign decoders has left no shortage of matters that have still to be resolved.
In my view the trade was right to be pleased with this month’s ruling: the lack of competition in the market for live sport in the commercial sector means pubs have been paying over the odds for football for too long.
But are we really at the dawn of a new age of cheaper access to English Premier League, SPL and Champions League action?
Business will no doubt have been more brisk than usual last week for foreign decoder suppliers, whose stock in trade has finally been confirmed as legitimate under EU law. That’s certainly the impression SLTN received from conversations with publicans and suppliers, with talk of many publicans having already served notice of their intention to quit Sky.
There could, however, be an argument for exercising caution on the part of those planning to desert the broadcaster for cheaper alternatives.
I appreciate it’s easy for me to say – I’m not shelling out more than £1000 a month just for the right to show football in a pub – but maybe it’s wise for operators to wait until the whole matter is crystal clear under UK law before making the move. That could happen in a few short months.
It has also been suggested to me that Sky, faced with the prospect of thousands of pub owners cancelling subscriptions, may soon respond to the judgement by reviewing its own prices. That came amid feverish talk last week that the company had convened an emergency sales meeting to debate its response.
I have to admit, though, that the chances of Sky cutting prices is not something I’d stake the mortgage on.
More likely is that the Premier League (with the full support of Sky) will up the content of copyrighted material that features before and during games, which the European Court of Justice in its ruling said it’s entitled to protect.
In theory, that could see the EPL stamp its logo on all footage, meaning, as I understand it, that anyone selling a system that includes it would have to seek its permission. If that’s allowed to happen then little much will have changed.
Another outcome, and one that wasn’t trailed while the Murphy case rumbled on, is that the suppliers of foreign decoders put up prices themselves. No sensible business would resist the temptation to cash in on pent up demand; these suppliers exist to make money, after all.
On a separate note, there was one issue the Euro ruling did not appear to touch on which could well be the next area of investigation: the streaming into pubs of live games from the internet.
But perhaps that’s another issue for another day – the trade has more than enough to be thinking about post-Murphy for now.