Labour Peer and broadcasting grandee Lord Puttnam has warned that three quarters of all UK television content spending could go on acquiring sports rights with 37% of TV budgets going to football players within a decade.
Currently sports rights account for 46% of the total TV content spend, which stood at £6.4 billion according to the latest set of Ofcom figures. But Lord Puttnam warned today that this could rise to 74% in ten years time – something he described as an “absurdity.”
“There is no reason to assume that figure won’t be 74%. At what point does it not become insane that three quarters of expenditure of all programming is going into sport? What is the figure where you go ‘this is mad’?
“When the Premier League was created the purpose was to create a better experience for crowds and have something better. They never thought that these vast sums of money would be coming from television.”
Lord Puttnam estimated that of this total figure, around half of the total spend, would be spent on acquiring football rights.
“We actually could have a situation where 37% of all broadcasting revenues is spent on around 600 footballers. It’s quite impossible. At what point is that mad? At what point do we all join the loony bin?”
Sky’s football contract with the Premier League will cost it £1.4bn per year from next season, almost double the £760m per year for its current contract, and up from £540m per year only three years ago. Also paying big money is BT which paid £897m for a three-year deal to broadcast live Champions League and Europa League football matches.
Puttnam was speaking at the launch of his report into public service broadcasting.
In the report he called for the eventual abolition of the BBC licence fee and attacked the BBC’s failure to take Boris Johnson to task during the EU Referendum campaign.