SPFL TV deal: The pros and cons of new Sky Sports agreement

There we have it, the SPFL have finally got the new Sky Sports TV deal over the line in what appeared to be a far from plain sailing agreement.

Resistance was applied by Rangers over a resolution to increase the number of games allowed to be shown, while the club’s managing director Stewart Robertson expressed his own concerns over how the agreement transpired, namely not taking it out to tender.

Prior to the announcement of today's extension until 2029 with Sky Sports able to show up to 60 games per season – with a possible increase to 80 – starting from the 2024/25 campaign, Aberdeen chief Dave Cormack outlined the reasons why the deal is a positive one for Scottish football, even if that was met with criticism from many fans on social media.

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Here we look at some of the key pros and cons:

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PROS

Stability with a prominent broadcaster

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Scottish football has been stung before when it comes to broadcasting deals. This extension gives clubs up and down the country stability for the next seven years at an uncertain time when there is a cost of living crisis and prices are increasing across everyday life. Sides can prepare, budget and account for guaranteed money until 2029 in what is a record-breaking deal.

When it comes to Scottish football, Sky Sports have had their issues (more on that later!), but they are a well-respected and prominent broadcaster. They are a strong partner which produces high-quality sporting action. In addition, they have a highly passionate team working on Scottish football who produce content beyond live coverage of games which can be accessed across the broadcasters different platforms.

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Sky Sports have agreed an extension to their TV deal with the SPFL. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

SWPL addition

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Fiona McIntyre, the SWPL managing director, summed it up perfectly: “This is an historic moment for the SWPL and an enormous step forward for the women’s game in Scotland.” Sky Sports taking up live games of the SWPL or League Cup, even if it is just five at the moment, is another key progression following the league coming under the banner of the SPFL.

It helps increase the exposure via a broadcaster which has invested in the women's game in England, while bringing it more revenue with reports of the deal being worth more than £500,000 per season. Huge sums for that level.

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Streaming

We have witnessed Hibs, Aberdeen, Dundee United and Kilmarnock reschedule games in the coming weeks. It appears they are in preparation for PPV streaming which comes into immediate effect. With clubs now able to sell live streaming of five home games a season that means there will be an extra 60 matches available for fans to view, albeit at a cost.

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The pandemic brought about the ability to stream games which continued last season and can be a revenue generator for clubs, as well as giving fans an opportunity to watch games they otherwise would not have been able to.

It does come at a cost, however ...

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CONS

The match-attending fan

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An offshoot of the streaming option is that games will have to be moved from the traditional 3pm slot due to the current blackout between 2.45pm and 5.15pm. When supporters are buying season tickets at the start of the campaign there is an understanding that some games will be selected for television coverage but there is always the desire to have as many on a Saturday at 3pm. Games on Friday and Saturday nights under the lights have an extra energy but do provide challenges, notably travel to and from games.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster told Sky Sports getting fans into stadiums is a priority. Moving more fixtures due to the blackout may go against that unless the new deal helps clubs bring down the costs of tickets, especially for away fans.

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With regards to streaming there is a balancing act between providing fans with more opportunities to watch their team in action but also protecting or aiding the match-going fan, especially as the SPFL are so keen to talk up the importance of getting supporters through the turnstiles.

Being tied down

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The deal increases the money clubs receive and is viewed as a step forward towards the target of bringing in £50million. However, one way of doing that is increasing the money generated from TV revenue. Now the SPFL can’t do that prior to 2029 even if the deal brings that aforementioned stability. DAZN and Viaplay are options on the market who could have provided Sky Sports with competition in the coming years to bump up that income.

Those involved will point to the additional bundles, up to 20 games, that can be sold but going on past evidence it is difficult to see Sky Sports taking the league up on them.

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Sky’s relationship with Scottish football

From the 2024/25 season the deal gives Sky Sports the opportunity be to show up to 60 games a season (not taking into account the previously mentioned bundles). So far, the broadcaster has failed to use up its full allocation of 48 Premiership games in the past two seasons.

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It is a key bugbear of supporters who view Sky with some suspicion due to what are often sloppy mistakes, namely the regular confusion around Dundee United and Dundee and club crests. These are not major issues and are easily fixed – mistakes do happen and they are not exclusive to Scottish football – but feed into the narrative, along with Sky not taking up all their games, that the broadcaster doesn’t give the Scottish game the love and respect many feel it deserves.

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