Broadcasting Blues: The challenges of getting clubs on TV in the Premier League’s overseas markets

With the announcement earlier this year that the domestic rights for the Premier League had been sold for over £5 billion for a three-year cycle there will be few who would bet against the announcement that the bidding for the 2016-19 cycle of overseas Premier League television rights will similarly result in a big increase in revenue. Respected blogger The Swiss Ramble puts in an estimate that this will rise from a current figure of around £2.2 billion to £2.9 billion – whilst pointing out that others have predicted an even bigger rise.

The successes in marketing the Premier League product however, can be in sharp contrast to the experience of clubs in the territories where the games are broadcast. One such place is New Zealand where the challenge continues to be getting broadcasters even interested in indigenous football.

While Wellington Phoenix, who compete in Australia’s A-league, do enjoy some screen time they are very much the exception – and even they have faced criticism from some quarters about low viewing figures compared. The country’s flagship club tournament, the ASB Premiership, a summer tournament made of franchise clubs, continues to be dogged by a lack of broadcaster interest which have led to real concerns about its future.

These concerns have necessitated a rethink of the league’s structure in a specific bid to broaden its televisual appeal. As Andy Martin New Zealand Football’s Chief Executive recently announced:

What we’re doing is looking at a competition that, at the moment, is not on television and is not as sustainable as it might be, so there’s a lot of dependency on trust funding and some of the clubs aren’t as financially secure as we might want them to be,

Working with clubs, regional federations, various experts and the broadcaster Sky plans are currently in the development stage with details likely to be unveiled later in the year. Periodic format changes have however, been something of a hallmark of football in New Zealand and the current format is itself barely a decade old.

Familiar observers may question whether another change will really achieve the desired change. It is also likely to do little for the games winter clubs who make up the backbone of grass-roots football in the country. It is these clubs who contest the Chatham Cup. First played in 1923 the cup is New Zealand’s oldest tournament, but despite being described – in terms not unlike those used to talk about the FA Cup – as a ‘national institution’ even the final itself can go without being screened. In 2013 the game appeared only on local television network Canterbury Television, and even then was not live while in 2014, for the final between Central United and Cashmere Technical, New Zealand Football took matters into their own hands and carried out a pilot in streaming the game live on the internet.

Whether this, or the impending restructure of the ASB Premiership, offers any hope for the future in terms of getting New Zealand’s football clubs on, at the very least, domestic television screens is an open question. In a country with a population of just over 4.5 million and where local football must compete with not just Rugby, but the English Premier League for people’s affections and attention the challenge is a formidable one.

It is of course difficult to say just what the overall impact of the Premier League is on the domestic game in places such as New Zealand and whether this is damaging, or even perhaps beneficial. As the amount of revenue the Premiership generates from overseas broadcast rights grow however, questions need to be asked about what the league’s wider grass-roots responsibilities are in the all the places where it generates revenue.



  1. Having moved from the UK to NZ in 2012, I’ve been disappointed by the lack of domestic football shown on TV here since I arrived. On a previous trip in 2010, I arrived in New Zealand on the day of the ASB Premiership Grand Final and assumed that many games had been broadcast throughout the season leading up to it. As it turned out, that was the only game New Zealand TV saw fit to broadcast from the entire competition.

    At present, some NZ domestic football is streamed live online and the ASB Premiership does a sterling job of promoting their league via regular updates on Facebook. As for the influence of the Premier League, it is no longer shown extensively on satellite TV here as had been the case prior to this season. Sky Sport lost their exclusive rights to Coliseum Sports Media in 2013 and almost all live coverage switched to the web thereafter.

    As much as anything, the main factor that limits the popularity of the Premier League is the time difference. For your average Saturday 12.30pm kick-off in the UK, the equivalent time in New Zealand would be anywhere between 11.30pm and 1.30am, depending on the time of year (i.e. daylight saving). Live Premier League football cannot really compete for attention with the other sports you quite rightly mention, rugby union being by far the most popular, along with others like cricket and even netball.

    In short, the Premier League barely gets a mention when talking to your average Kiwi over here, let alone their own domestic league. What’s encouraging, however, is that many kids up and down the country play soccer at school and with events such as the FIFA Under-20 World Cup being held here in a few weeks, I’ve no doubt it will gain greater prominence in future.

    Well done on your article and best wishes… Chris.

    • Thanks Chris,

      You’ve reminded me of the time I was in New Zealand in 2003 and Southampton were in the FA Cup final. Fortunately there was another Saints fan staying at my hostel in Paihia who had hired a room at a motel with satellite TV. We ended up watching it on (I think) Sky sports 3 with a kick-off time of some when in the real small hours and after I wandered back to the hostel and got 30 minutes sleep before I had to be up and go round hovering the rooms. As I was so sleepy the Kiwi proprietors – a young couple who had both spent time in London – were seriously unimpressed and didn’t understand the importance of the occasion at all!

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