With nearly half of football fans illegally streaming, the Premier League is clamping down
Update: The Premier League has won a High Court order to prevent the illegal streaming of games. Under the terms of the oder, UK ISPs will be required to block users from accessing streams.
It’s essentially an extension of the order obtained towards the end of last season which saw over 5,000 IP addresses being blocked for streaming live matches.
Kevin Plumb, the Premier League’s director of legal services told the BBC that the blocking order is a “game-changer”.
“It will allow us to quickly and effectively block and disrupt the illegal broadcast of Premier League football via any means, including so called ‘pre-loaded Kodi boxes’,” he said.
The original piece outlining the extent of the Premier League’s headache continues below
My interest in football ebbs and flows with Derby County’s fortunes, which typically means my enthusiasm has dried up by February and I consider finding out what cricket is. But for some, football is a year-round passion – and it’s a big money one too. Three seasons’ worth of TV rights for the Premier League sold to BT Sport and Sky for over £5 billion – up £2 billion on the last time they were negotiated.
But unusually, this increased fee comes at a time when Premier League TV viewing figures are falling. Sky’s viewing figures dropped 6% last season, while BT dropped by 2% – and although some of that can be correlated against the relegation of well supported teams like Aston Villa and Newcastle United, it doesn’t tell the full story, as a new survey from ComRes reveals.
The survey of 1,000 people for 5 Live Daily found that 47% of those surveyed had watched a match through an illegal provider at least once in the past, while 36% claimed to stream matches at least once per month. That figure dropped to 22% who were doing so on a weekly basis.
This raises the question of whether people are aware of the legality of streaming Premier League matches away from legitimate sources such as Now TV. For the avoidance of doubt, it’s not a grey area: it is illegal, albeit one that’s hard to prosecute in any meaningful way.
Ignorance of the law does seem to be part of the rise in online streams – though it doesn’t tell the whole story. Just 12% think it’s legal to stream matches through an unofficial provider, while 34% know it’s illegal. That leaves 32% who don’t know, 10% who think it’s legal to watch but not upload and 7% who think it’s sometimes illegal. A baffling 4% believe it’s completely legal, but that Sky or BT could still fine you for watching, which just raises so many questions.
Worryingly for Sky and BT – but wholly unsurprisingly – the charge towards illegal streaming was led by the young. 65% of those aged 18-34 confessed to streaming a match at least once per month, against 33% of 35-54 year olds. The figure dropped to just 13% of those aged over the age of 55. That’s not an encouraging trend for the rights holders, but pleasing for me that I (just) fit into the “young” group.
And why are people drawn towards illegal streams? 29% of viewers say they do it purely because a friend or family member does, and they passively join in, while 25% said they did so for the quality. Surprisingly, just 24% made the fairly obvious point that sports packages are not good value for money. As someone who has occasionally paid for £7.99 Now TV day passes to watch Derby County get tonked, I have some sympathy for this argument, but there we are.
It’s hard to imagine the Premier League and rights holders turning a blind eye to the problem – especially as it keeps growing. So far the industry’s response has been to go after individuals knowingly selling equipment rather than people who watch the streams, but that strategy can only go so far, given it’s pretty trivial to install the associated applications yourself, cutting out the middleman.
A Premier League spokesperson told the BBC: “The Premier League will continue to protect its copyright, and the legitimate investment made by its broadcasting partners. Their contribution allows our clubs to develop and acquire players, invest in facilities and support the wider football pyramid and communities – all things that fans enjoy and society benefits from.”
The Premier League will be hoping that this relatively softly-softly strategy pays off – otherwise they may find the likes of Sky and BT are extremely reluctant to keep paying for the beautiful game when it comes up for renewal again in 2019.