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Back in July, a BBC Sport survey showed that more than a third of football fans watch illegal, online streams. This coincides with falling viewing figures for Sky Sports, which had a drop of 14% over the past premier league season for live games. There was a radio 5 live interview conducted with a football fan, who was very much berated for his honest statement that he uses online streams. (See link below)
Although it would be wrong to vindicate the use of these streams, the BBC seems to believe that it the fault of the illegal streamers for the fall in Sky viewing figures. They fail to realise that many fans cannot simply fork out £50 a month for a Sky Sports package, no matter how many sports are shown. Surely it is Sky’s prices that have driven fans towards illegal streaming and result in the fall of Sky Sports’ viewing figures?
The BBC also seem to be under the impression that all streams are of “as good quality” as “the real thing”-although some clearly are of an impressive quality, the majority of streams are full of inconvenient pop up boxes and are far, far away from the HD quality that Sky and BT Sport provide. Moreover, according to the survey , “just under a third of fans do not know whether it is illegal to stream live matches from unofficial Premier League providers”-this is surely far from accurate. Any football fan who would search for a game online will know that the games are exclusively on Sky or BT for a reason- and will very likely be aware of the huge TV deals made to secure this.
The interviewer also appeared to think that Sky and BT would lower their prices if there wasn’t so much illegal streaming, as they would have more viewers. Surely the solution to this would be for those companies to guarantee this lowering of prices, or to lower the prices anyway? There is no way for the common fan to believe that they will lower prices unless they actually did so. In previous years, when viewing figures have increased, the prices have gone up with them-so there is no evidence that would convince to the common fan unless such a guarantee was made.
In fairness, NOW TV and other packages do provide a separate solution, and are also part of the reason for falling viewing figures for Sky. In an attempt to bring viewing figures back up, Sky have also created a separate premier league channel which is available for separate purchase, avoiding the purchase of all main sky sports channels-this is certainly a step in the right direction.
Nevertheless, the BBC’s naivety is astonishing- viewers are not simply going to purchase Sky Sports and stop watching illegal streams in the mere hope that the price will fall.