Could Scottish football be back on terrestrial television
in the near future?

Could Scottish football be back on terrestrial television
in the near future?

By Stefan Bienkowski

A story that could have huge ramifications for the future of Scottish football has been rumbling on in the business and technology pages of most newspapers this summer. You may not have seen this, but many news outlets – including the Drum right here – have been covering a recent move from the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV to band together to form a challenger to Netflix.


In the report, John Glenday writes: “The BBC, Channel 4 and ITV have put on a united front in order to see off the mounting threat posed by Netflix and Amazon, committing to a combined £125m investment in Freeview over five years.”


The basic premise behind the idea is to offer a streaming service that would show all of the content provided by all three broadcasters in a bid to take a sizeable chunk out of the market that Netflix, Amazon Prime and other US companies have dominated since their inception.


Recent trends have suggested that younger people are spending less and less time watching scheduled television and have instead opted for subscription services like Netflix, which offer content on-demand. And the aforementioned British broadcasters have finally realised that they may need to pull their resources if they’re going to keep up.



I’m well aware that I’m now four paragraphs into this article without talking about Scottish football, but don’t worry it’s coming.


As well as offering a platform that would allow viewers to watch Sherlock and Peep Show all in one place, this new British, broadcasting monolith would have to continue competing with Netflix & Co. for our attention. And while they already do that with documentaries, dramas and even full-blown movies, there is a new market that these streaming services are desperate to pump their cash into; live sports.


We touched upon Twitter’s recent dive into live sports a month or so ago, but alongside the social media website we’ve seen Amazon Prime, Facebook and Snapchat all invest in live sports rights in recent years. The NFL is currently nurturing its own Netflix-style service for fans and football supporters in Europe can already sign up to DAZN, which offers live football from across the world. And the BBC are well aware of the need to have live sports in their arsenal.


Next month the European Championships will begin in Berlin and Glasgow and across the 11-day event, the BBC will be doing their best to milk every, moment of drama and entertainment out of events across athletics, cycling, gymnastics, rowing, swimming and triathlon. While the broadcaster has always had a certain obligation to cover British sports teams, the bigwigs at Broadcasting House will be hoping for a similar feel-good bounce in viewership like they saw during the World Cup in Russia.



A total of 44.8 million people tuned in to the BBC to watch the World Cup, clearly noting the value of live sports. Yet what most eagle-eyed executives at the organisation would have noticed was that England’s quarter-final clash with Sweden was the highest online-viewed live programme ever with 3.8 million viewers. It wasn’t Sherlock or Eastenders that broke the BBC iPlayer’s viewing record, it was football.


Of course, that’s not to say the Scottish Premiership can drum up attention like the World Cup. But in a changing landscape in which the BBC, along with ITV and Channel 4 not only accept that they need to take on the streaming giants at their own game but also accept that live sport is one of the most delicate commodities for a broadcaster, leagues that indeed sell such broadcasting packages can begin to name their price.


Long gone are the days of Scottish football having to rely upon a single broadcaster to set their own terms for each renewed broadcasting deal. The SPFL is undoubtedly in a better position now that it has two broadcasters on board, but moving forward it should consider that plenty more will be intrigued by the idea of showing Scottish football games on their platforms. Twitter, Facebook and Amazon Prime are desperate for content and our own British broadcasters may follow suit before too long.

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