BSkyB suffered a fall of between seven and eight per cent in average viewing figures for Premiership football matches last season.
The news comes as an embarrassment in the week that the pay-TV broadcaster paid the Premier League &£1.1bn to renew its contract for live Premier League football for a further three years. The fall means that Sky’s average audience for Premiership matches last season was just over 1.1 million people.
Sky blames a combination of factors for the fall-off in viewing figures, including having to re-arrange broadcasts around European games. It was forced to broadcast seven games on a Saturday morning last season, as opposed to the previous year, because of the growing European commitments of England’s leading clubs. Sky also cites Manchester United’s early success in winning the Premiership as a factor in the downturn, as it reduced the drama of the championship run-in.
“Into the new year we were running at even (in terms of viewer numbers) compared with the previous season,” says a Sky Sports spokesman explaining the fall in viewers. “But by the end of the season we were between seven and eight per cent down on the previous year.” That translates to between 60,000 and 67,000 fewer viewers.
Another survey suggests that Sky has had an even worse time. TV Sports Markets magazine calculated, using BARB figures, that Sky’s premiership audience dropped by 14.2 per cent last season down from an average audience per game for 1998 to 1999 of 1.18 million.
But that survey failed to include viewers watching games on Sky Sports Extra, its interactive service for digital subscribers which was launched in August 1999.