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Wrong about rights

In my opinion, Setanta have got it wrong.

I understand that their strategy – similar to Sky in the early 90s, when they snapped up English Premier League football – is to secure exclusive rights to “must see” sporting events, including Premier League and international football. I understand that they are looking to create revenue streams by driving sports fans to subscribe to their channels. I understand that there is a monetary value which can be attributed to the privilege of being able to watch live and exclusive coverage.

I understand all these things.

However, the difference between now and 16 years ago is that I already pay Sky a huge – some would say obscene – amount of money every year for the privilege of watching sport, films and general entertainment: a sum not dissimilar from the GDP of some smaller African nations, I believe. So you might understand why my tolerance for waving bye-bye to a further £156 a year to watch a handful of Arsenal games, half a dozen England internationals and “enjoy” access to Liverpool and Celtic’s dedicated TV channels – is that paint I see drying over there? – is relatively low.

But it’s not that which has me apoplectic with rage (well, seriously irked, anyway).

If Setanta want to shell out the equivalent of one Dave Kitson (or thereabouts) for the live rights to England’s World Cup qualifier in Croatia last night, that’s their lookout, even if I think their strategy is dubious. What I object to is their reported refusal to accept less than £1m for the right to broadcast highlights after the event.

£1m? For highlights which probably wouldn’t have aired until at least 10.30pm? In whose warped world were the BBC or Sky going to cough up that kind of cash for a game which promised to be yet another in a long line of disappointments for the remnants of the so-called Golden Generation?

And so those of us unwilling to shell out £156 a year for the privilege of howling in derision at the men in white were left only with the option of finding a pub or tuning in to the radio. Me? In the end I followed the game intermittently on teletext, where I derived a perverse pleasure in observing Switzerland’s shock 2-1 home defeat to Luxembourg. (See, there really are no more easy games in international football!)

Which means I missed what seems to have been the best England performance in over 7 years – you know the game I’m thinking of – like last night, a game in which a young England striker of small stature stunned the hosts with a brilliant hat-trick. At least, I am led to believe it was a brilliant hat-trick by Theo Walcott based on media reports I have read or heard since the game, as of course I still have not seen any footage from the game. (No doubt I will be able to find some online, but that sounds too much like hard work …)

Thanks for that, Setanta. In many ways, the fact that my failure to subscribe to Setanta means I missed a great game should underline the correctness of their strategy – “next time, don’t miss out!” – but in my case at least it has had the opposite effect. Would I have felt better disposed to Setanta if they had negotiated a fair deal with Messrs Lineker, Hansen et al to bring us delayed highlights? Yes. Would I have willingly coughed up £10 on a pay-per-view basis to watch the game? Probably. But am I more likely to subscribe to Setanta today than I was this time last week? Quite the opposite.

And that’s the problem with Setanta’s attempts at daylight robbery. Sure, some people are going to be persuaded to sign on the dotted line. But when you play hardball like this many others, myself included, are just going to be annoyed and become ever more resolute not to succumb.

Instead, I’m going to spend my £156 on something I can derive greater pleasure from. Like three Theo Walcott shirts.

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

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