* UPDATED 1.30pm * Reports were flying around the internet yesterday (4 January) afternoon that Apple was preparing to bid for English Premier League television rights, alongside the likes of BSkyB and ESPN.
The overall package for Premier League TV rights sold for £2bn three years ago, with BSkyB taking the largest proportion (£1.6bn) and ESPN making up the rest. Were prices to remain relatively the same (although they are actually likely to drop, judging by the price of the rights to screen FA Cup matches, which has dropped 30%), Apple could easily afford a bid with its estimated £50bn+ in spending power.
The speculatation, however, seems somewhat unsubstantiated and counter reports now claim that Apple has “ruled itself out” of the race for a slice of Premier League action – much to the delight, I’m sure, of footy fans across the country who are aggrieved enough with US broadcaster ESPN’s current coverage and punditry.
But hypothetically speaking, were Apple to take even a tiny sliver of the package for the rights to show live football games, it would be an incredible coup for the company, which is rumoured to be launching TV sets in the US (and presumably the UK later) in the coming months.
With exclusive rights to broadcast live football games, Apple would finally offer a compelling reason for UK consumers to switch to its TV services beyond the snazzy home screen and slick movement between menus. It would become a real competitor to IPTV services like TiVO, which have truly integrated linear TV, internet and app offerings.
The English Premier League is also hugely popular in Asia, another territory where Apple is battling for dominance in the OS (Operating System) market share battle – perhaps another bid would also be tabled here.
Even if Apple did not bid for the highly lucrative live games, a lighter package, such as to highlights or “nearly live” replays, would still be an interesting proposition – perfect for viewing at a user’s leisure on their Mac, iPad or iPhone. The walled garden would reach new heights.
To clarify, these hypothetical musings do not take into account that Apple would have to change its business model from a content distributor to a content provider – which will have no end of technological, regulatory and consumer education hurdles to overcome. Not least, Apple would have some explaining to do to its partners, which produce apps for watching the Premier League like Sky Go and ESPN Goals, as to how it would effectively bump them down – and perhaps even off – the app store. The decision to change strategic direction is not a minor one, for any brand, let alone a gargantuan one like Apple, so it is highly unlikely the company would be bidding for broadcast rights of any kind for some time to come.