Examination of Witnesses (Questions 380
WEDNESDAY 16 NOVEMBER 2005
Mr Paul Vaughan, Mr Allan Munro and Mr David Moffett
Q380 Lord King of Bridgwater:
It does not help in the bidding necessarily. There is not a sort
of graph of past background pricing evidence, or tender offers
of one sort or another which might have been bid in other areas,
which might give you a pretty good guide to what the market price
Mr Moffett: I think we are getting there. We
are only a very fledgling sport in terms of professional rugby,
at 10 years. I think we are starting to develop that degree of
evidence. It is not only in this country, it is also in the southern
hemisphere, where they are into their second contract with New
Zealand. I was part of the negotiating of the first contract.
I think we can now start to value it. Also, the rugby world cups
have been around for some time. I think the evidence, for what
it is worth, is definitely improving.
Q381 Lord King of Bridgwater:
You think the BBC perhaps ought to get better informed on some
of this. You have said "more aggressive".
Mr Moffett: If they want something, I think
they are going to have to go out and get it, whether that is rugby,
rowing or whatever it is.
Q382 Lord King of Bridgwater:
Do you own the Millennium Stadium?
Mr Moffett: Yes, we do.
Q383 Lord King of Bridgwater:
Do you handle the negotiations for other sports that take place
in the Millennium Stadium?
Mr Moffett: No, we do not. We normally just
hire it out as a venue. We do at times put on our own events.
We have tried, with putting on a soccer match between an Italian
and a Spanish teamwhere we own the event and then we will
sell on the television rightsbut when the FA comes to town,
they just hire the stadium off us.
Q384 Lord King of Bridgwater:
Have you noticed any great difference in the negotiation on football
rights as opposed to the rugby rights?
Mr Moffett: In terms of how they deal with us?
Q385 Lord King of Bridgwater:
Yes, the BBC approach.
Mr Moffett: No, because I do not get involved
in that. That is a matter for the football associations to sort
What about England, do you want to come in on that?
Mr Vaughan: I would just like to make the point
that the BBC have a fantastic heritage in sportfor many,
many years, on both radio and television. The position we are
in collectively here is that we are never going to beat football.
Football will always be the top premier league game for many years
to come. We have to make sure that we are top of the second rung,
if you like. In terms of what the BBC is bidding for, they cannot
be all things to all men, in my view. They cannot do everything.
They have to be focused on what they do because they only have
so much air time and resource financially in order to spend. If
they are going to cover synchronised swimming through to whatever
it might be, that is one approach, the very broad-brush approach,
but actually it means everybody gets less. If it is to promote
the bigger, secondary sports effectively, then obviously they
need to be focused in terms of their resources and make sure they
have adequate resources in order to buy the rights. They do live
in a competitive world. They cannot be just taken as the national
broadcaster and safe, I think. They have to operate in a commercial
world, I am afraid.
Q387 Lord King of Bridgwater:
You are prepared to accommodate them on scheduling, and we now
have a two o'clock match and a four o'clock match. In other words,
the unions are prepared, within reason, to move to broadcasting
Mr Vaughan: Certainly within the Six Nations
that is very much the case, because they have 15 matches, three
on every weekend for five weekends. They schedule it so that they
can show all the rights they have bought quite sensibly. When
it comes to the autumn games, because we are not on BBC and Wales
and Scotland certainly are, we have a 2.30 kick-off every Saturday
for three weekswhich our audience loves, because if you
are travelling down from Yorkshire or Northumberland to Twickenham
you can get there and back in a day, as you can from Cornwall.
Are you saying the BBC should specialise more in terms of what
it bids for?
Mr Vaughan: I am trying to say that it needs
to be more focused in terms of what it wants, which really emphasises
David's point. It needs to focus resources behind what it needs
to get in order to drive its audienceswhich we can deliverrather
than spread its audiences very, very thinly, which I think often
used to be the case.
Which, I suppose, is also the temptation if you are trying to
deliver back to every licence fee payer in the country.
Mr Vaughan: Yes.
Q390 Lord Maxton:
It is also a public service broadcast, if you like, and they have
a responsibility to encourage all sports, not just two or three
Mr Moffett: But they need to get value for money
out of everything they do essentially, do they not? That is a
test that everybody working in public life has to meet. I think
they have to make those judgments internally and against their
own charter or however they are going to be managed. It is obviously
quite a difficult task, but from a rugby perspective we think
we do deliver value for money for public broadcasting.
Q391 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
I think I have picked up a fairly good impression that none of
you is entirely satisfied with the amount of coverage you get
on the BBCprobably the Welsh side is happier than the others.
Could I pick up on one of the points you have made. Presumably,
in order to get value for money the BBC will need to be flexible.
It might be they will see something coming onto the horizon that
they will want to spend a bit more money on, with some of the
games maybe fading into the background, so the flexibility we
are talking about must go both ways. Against that background,
one or two people mentioned especially a sports channel. I would
be interested to hear of your views on this. Would that make the
BBC rather more of a potential purchaser of each of your particular
rights, or would there be down sides there?
Mr Vaughan: I think that, yes, it would. It
would certainly have the air time to be able to give a broader
coverage of many sports. I would just put in the rider that they
would need to be able to have sufficient funds in order to be
able to buy the rights, and also to make sure, if it is a specialised
sports channel, that it is going to be a terrestrial channel or
a digital platform channel.
Mr Munro: I am not quite so sure. Prior to getting
involved in rugby, I know from my own household and that of both
sets of parents/parents-in-law that they would watch a rugby international
on a Saturday afternoon, whereas if there was a dedicated sports
channel I am not sure they would. I think that is quite possibly
a factor and possibly not dissimilar to the advantage that the
BBC has over Sky with a dedicated sports channel. I think a lot
of people, certainly in Scotland, as far as I am aware, watch
a rugby international because they think it is great and it is
good entertainment, whereas if it was a dedicated sports channel,
with a film on the other side, I am not sure they would.
So you might lost an audience.
Mr Munro: I think you could well lose an audience.
Q393 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
What about the effect it might have on the other side of what
you are trying to achieve; that is, getting more people involved
and the young interested.
Mr Munro: I think it goes exactly the same way.
Mr Moffett: As long as it is on terrestrial
and it is accessible by everybody who pays for their television
licence, I do not see that it is going to have a negative effect.
In terms of strategy, I think the BBC needs to work out what it
wants to do, and what it wants to be obviously is part of that.
But the world is changing and it is changing at a very rapid pace
and they have to keep up with what is happening around them. Otherwise,
the BBC will get left behind and we will find that we will be
left behind with them if we are partnering with them. Obviously
it is a matter for the BBC as to whether they feel a sports channel
is warranted, but I would think, from the point of view of a dedicated
sports' viewer, that if there is the money there to do it would
be a good thing.
But you would not want it to be done if it was a second division
Mr Moffett: No. I do not think the BBC is about
being second division in anything. That is what they should not
be, because they have had such a historyforgetting about
sport nowin everything that they have done. I know that
is a big debate going on at the moment, but, no, they do not want
to be a second division sports channel.
Q395 Lord Maxton:
In a sense, my argument on the dedicated channel would be: Show
the game live on terrestrial, but then repeat itwhich is
what Sky doin the evening, for those who have gone and
watched the game or whatever. You have said the world is changing,
and that is right. The next step in all this, of course, is probably
the internet. Do you have separate rights for selling on the internet?
I know the SRU is now showing some of the club games on their
website? I am trying to persuade the club with which I am associated
that the video they use for training purposesbecause they
video every gamecould be shown live on their own website.
There is nothing to stop them doing that. Where do you see yourself
in this new broadband internet world?
Mr Vaughan: Five years ago we deliberately separated
out our rights for broadband and indeed mobile telephony as well.
What we are now finding is that the conversion world is giving
us a major problem because inevitably all broadcasters will want
to separate their broadcast on all platforms that they have got,
so the BBC now want to broadcast in broadband as well as terrestrial
television, which then cuts across whatever else we are doing.
What we have done is manage to persuade them to have a geo-block
of the broadband area in the UK in order for us to be able to
sell on externally into the market world wide. We do that reasonably
successfully. I think it will give us problems further down the
road as well. Broadband soon will be another potential opportunity
for us to sell our sport instead of television perhaps if you
take a long-term view.
Q396 Lord Maxton:
So when the BBC do a Six Nations game or Scotland and Wales do
their autumn internationals, do you have access to the videos,
if you like, to use yourself or do they totally own the rights?
The Lawn Tennis Association with Wimbledon keeps the rights for
the programmes that the BBC do. Is that true in rugby?
Mr Vaughan: The BBC now tend to want to include
it in the deal on the basis of take it or leave it. It is the
whole deal or nothing, which I think is a little unfair, whereas
what we are trying to sell is television rights and not the broadband
rights. What we have done now is to have some hold-back period
in order for us to be able to sell on with a 24-hour hold-back
period for other broadband opportunities within the UK, but it
obviously does not have the same impact as live.
Q397 Lord Peston:
Could I take us on to listed events. One of the things until I
was on this Committee doing this inquiry I had never thought of
was the conceptual basis of what a listed event is and why certain
events are listed events. Looking at what they are now, I cannot
make head or tail or find any logic to why Wimbledon Tennis Finals
are a listed event. I was just alive the last time an Englishman
was a serious contender to win. So one concept one might have
is if one of the major nationsand this is a national thingyou
could see why it would be a listed event but most of them I cannot
make head nor tail of. Do you have a view of what ought to be
a listed event, apart from the other question of how we then get
the balance between what must be free to air and what is charged
for? I think one of you mentioned Six Nations but unless I do
not understand what is what the Six Nations is not a listed event
and yet each of your countries often does quite well in the Six
Nations. You are part of what is really going on so why is that
not a listed event?
Mr Vaughan: Thankfully it is probably better
that we do not determine what is listed and what is not.
Q398 Lord Peston:
No, but you are interested from your side as to what you can sell.
Mr Vaughan: Yes, from our point of view, certainly
from an English point of view we needed the ability to be able
to go to the market and try and do the best deal, and the best
deal from our point of view is that broad mix of channels that
we do have and we have managed to achieve, which is we have a
combination of Sky and BBC and the World Cup with ITV as a sport,
which is fantastic. From an English point of view it works very
well. We would like to see more of it, over longer periods of
time, throughout the whole season on terrestrial television, but
it is difficult, as I said before, because the rugby specials
have now really disappeared apart from eight times a year.
Q399 Lord King of Bridgwater:
Can I clear up one point. When you talk about the Six Nations
and negotiating whether that appears or not, when you actually
negotiate the Six Nations, does each nation negotiate separately?
Mr Vaughan: It is collective; it used to be