PUBS AND SKY SPORT
“Publicans ‘may feel under pressure’ as Sky takes 100s of cases against pubs illegally showing matches. Sky says it takes the matters to court to protect its actual customers, while publicans say the cost of a subscription is too costly.” according to the Journal
This interested me because up to a while ago, I used to go to my local to watch sport, (and to drink beer and chat of course). The man who owns that pub is a mine of information though it doesn’t take a genius to see how lowered drink driving limits, the smoking ban and a changing culture have decimated his pub industry. The Cotton Ball Pub beside me can accommodate hundreds of customers and used to do so fairly regularly. Now however, it is only on Saturday night and Sunday that the patrons come anywhere near that number.
But as an inheritance from an earlier time, the place has seven large screens and one enormous projector screen. He has to license from Sky for each one of these based on his turnover. “Padraig Cribben, VFI chief executive, claims that such a set-up may cost up to 10% of turnover and that’s turnover not profit.” Sky is creaming from the top and the bottom. Cribbin added: “The two single biggest drains on pubs are Sky and insurance.” The insurance bit is health & safety’s scam.
But Sky hires private dicks to sneak around pubs in an effort to discover who is not playing Sky-ball with them. They have coded into the signal a graphic of a pint half full, which appears on the top right hand corner of the screen and if it’s there, the screening is Sky-legal. If it ain’t, the publican is using a (paid for), domestic connection to broadcast commercially, hence the Sky court case.
But pay-TV as regards sport has become a racket of its own. There was a time when all sport was shown on the Sky channels. Then BT muscled in with a few sports channels of their own and took a lot of premiership games with them and a lot of good rugby too. Naturally there is a different license to pay to use that. Another couple of sports channels then were likewise provided by ‘eir’ . Tennis, like the recent Wimbledon, can show up with the standard package on BBC or Eurosport. The latest Sky boxes in Ireland don’t allow you to tune into any of the ITV’s so Roy Keane’s punditry for the World Cup wasn’t available to his old neighbours here in Mayfield for love nor money. The decent pub attempting to cover all of the sport’s bases for their clientele could end up paying many thousands every month along with all of their other overheads.
The Cotton Ball is trying to do just that but I have noticed a new phenomenon quickly developing. This is, that most sports fans are barely watching the expensive offerings on any of the eight screens because they have their snouts in their so-called smart phones betting money on other sports elsewhere that they are monitoring on the phone’s web access, also supplied incidently through fast pub fibre Wi-Fi, another must apparently. A lot of the time too the sound is turned down. Nobody takes any notice of match build-ups today either, because they get the team news in advance on their bloody phones before they even get to the pub and the gabling odds are more important anyway.
Smaller poorer pubs in rural areas, I have been told, are simply learning how to plug their laptop into the big screen and are streaming free sport content from the Web for those customers who wish to look at it. Over the last several years I have only been to one pub, (in West Cork), that had no TV’s whatsoever. The theme there appeared to be to talk rather then stare at the goggle-box. The reality of the modern Irish pub, outside a few super pubs in Dublin, is that if you visit on a weekday afternoon, you are likely to be the only customer with several big screens surrounding you all paid for but switched off. Instead, some pop station blares out endless forgettable modern music at a level making it hard to think, never mind speak. The original good Sky Sports idea has now become another nail in the Irish public house coffin. I imagine things are similar in the UK too.
Sky executives though, will not see that and maybe don’t even want to know. Instead, they imagine large crowds sitting eagerly around screens that they didn’t provide, in pubs they don’t support, all staring intently at their content, which they overcharge for. This is the captive audience they no doubt tell their advertisers about. Huge money is flowing into Sky from both of these revenue streams and that’s why some mediocre players in the Premiership are taking home £200,000 a week. But it has gone too far and is all becoming a bit toxic. Pubs are still closing and those not under severe pressure are turning to good food to attract back some custom. The Wilton, opposite the CUH in Cork, does an incredible carvery every day and though the sport is on two or three screens, there is no point because you can’t hear a thing. If there is no sport then Sky News plays silently away in the distance. You see, people sit there enjoying their food and actually talking to each other. How amazing!
We are still a sports mad country but more and more, people do not have the concentration span to look at a full game/race/competition from beginning to end. Instead they seek multiple video-bites to inform and entertain themselves with highlight moments like goals and these they find on the web-connected smart phones anywhere they go. Much like the internet is killing newspapers and terrestrial television, it will do for pay-TV channels like Sky as well.
They just got too greedy and stupid, the pay-boys that is.