Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1400 - 1419)

TUESDAY 13 DECEMBER 2005

Mr Richard Scudamore

  Q1400  Baroness Howe of Idlicote: That was not quite what I was asking.

  Mr Scudamore: In answer to an earlier question, I cannot envisage where we will not have some sort of free-to-air exposure of our football in a highlights form. Whether that is the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five or any other free-to-air broadcaster, I am not wedded to any particular broadcaster. As you have probably gathered, we are more wedded to extracting the value of our intellectual property than we are to any particular broadcaster.

  Q1401  Chairman: Your concern is that there should be some competition?

  Mr Scudamore: Yes.

  Q1402  Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury: I have one question in response to your answer to the Chairman's question about whether the BBC should bid more. You said it would cost £2.7 million for 90 minutes. That is before production costs?

  Mr Scudamore: Yes, and they are not huge, as you can probably imagine.

  Q1403  Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury: There are a lot of people involved.

  Mr Scudamore: Yes, but in the scheme of programming costs they are not huge. These are all at the moment, shall we say, last year's prices, of course. That is the current deal. Who knows what the future competitive environment may hold?

  Q1404  Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury: You talked earlier when you gave us a history of football about 1985 being an all-time low and it has built up since then and the importance of Match of the Day. What effect do you think the lack of premiership football on free-to-air platforms has on the game? Are you concerned that there is a danger that young people are not being drawn into the game in the way that they were through the late eighties and nineties?

  Mr Scudamore: No, because there was never very much football live on television anyway. The maximum it ever got to was 18 in the season. They did not schedule anything in August and September. We always got the FA Cup, we always got the World Cups and the European championships and people thought they were watching Premier League football when they were not. With the uptake now of pay television generally with the consistency that Match of the Day has brought to that highlights environment and the advent of the Sunday morning programme, the earlier programme which has been re-engineered and re-edited for the audience and includes a special section on community involvement with young people and is edited with less analysis and more action, deliberately aimed at the younger market, I think we are probably as well served now as we have ever been, whether it be young people or any group. For those who have not got access to satellite platforms, usually everybody knows somebody who has and there is always for older audiences the pub environment which is an extremely attractive environment for a lot of young adults to watch football, so in terms of access we are as good now as we have ever been.

  Q1405  Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury: And you were saying earlier about the whole broadband capability.

  Mr Scudamore: Yes, and that is all to come.

  Q1406  Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury: Moving on to the question of listed events, what is your attitude to the existence of listed events and do you think that it makes it more difficult for the BBC to bid for premiership games because they are not on the list?

  Mr Scudamore: I would rather come at this the other way. Clearly there is a place for listed events. They are the iconic, more single match or condensed series of matches such as the FA Cup, such as the World Cup, but 380 games, 10 of which are played every weekend for nine months, do not lend themselves in my view to anything like a listed event environment.

  Q1407  Chairman: That is quite interesting. You do not actually contest the concept of listed events?

  Mr Scudamore: No, I do not contest the concept. I contest the practicality of its applicability to something like the competition that I run because it just would not work for us.

  Q1408  Chairman: Can we just go back to Lord Peston's point about the European Commission? We have now got this rather curious position where, providing it goes through all the stages that you have said, no-one is going to be allowed to buy all six packages but someone would be allowed to buy five of the six, so there is this one sixth thing. It does not sound to me on the face of it one of the world's most attractive packages. What is your view on that?

  Mr Scudamore: I will come at it the other way. Nobody is guaranteed to buy anything. The whole point is, now that those rights are in six packages, now those rights have a balance, we have guaranteed what we call the top five club matches. Other people want to call them top quality matches (and, of course, we have quality matches at all our matches). Anybody involved in the top five clubs, those matches will be spread throughout the packages. Everybody is concentrating on this five/one concept but that is rather a negative construct. The fact is that anybody can step up to the plate and buy one package, two packages, three packages, four packages, and I think it is certainly not a foregone conclusion that we will end up in a five/one environment. If the market is prepared to step up to the plate and take part I think we have got a very good chance of a very vague outcome, sitting here today.

  Q1409  Chairman: So you could have a three/three, for example?

  Mr Scudamore: Yes, easily.

  Q1410  Chairman: Who, apart from BSkyB and the BBC, would be in the bidding?

  Mr Scudamore: Again, in the nature of things it is anybody and everybody; all UK broadcasters. I am sure there will be some foreign broadcast interest. We would not rule out, subject to them having some definitive plans by the right time, venture capital interests. It is impossible to say, sitting here. We will, as we always do, advertise in the correct trade press and some time in the new year we will go to market. The ITT will be issued to everybody that shows an interest and we will hopefully have interest from everybody.

  Q1411  Chairman: So, rather than being a defeat, it sounds as though it is a plus for you?

  Mr Scudamore: But that is how we have always done it. There are some differences now, there are some technical differences; we are being forced to sell at least one package to somebody else but, as I say, that is the agreement we made with the Commission in December 2003.

  Q1412  Chairman: So we have taken two years, have we, to get to the final bit?

  Mr Scudamore: To get to the definition around what a balanced package is and what that would look like in qualitative terms.

  Q1413  Lord Kalms: You said a foreign broadcaster might buy it. Do you think a foreign broadcaster might buy it and then try and sell it back to a UK broadcaster or that they would broadcast into the UK or what?

  Mr Scudamore: No. I should have said owners of foreign broadcast channels. Clearly, there are other people who have ownership interests in channels that are distributed in UK television.

  Q1414  Lord Kalms: For the UK?

  Mr Scudamore: If you were to run yourself down the EPG currently on your satellite system or on your cable system you would see a whole lot of channels that are not owned by UK broadcasters, sports channels included.

  Q1415  Chairman: I think Sky have said, have they not, that they would be happy to pay the same amount as they currently do for five packages, so it sounds as if you have come out of this rather well?

  Mr Scudamore: Do not believe everything you read in the press but my recollection was that they would be prepared to pay the same amount as they pay for the current level of exclusivity, which is a different point.

  Q1416  Lord Peston: Your model is that you are Premier league and you have a package and it is bid for. Is there also La Liga and Serie A? Is their stuff also always pay-per-view?

  Mr Scudamore: That is entirely different. Serie have a club rights model where the government passed a law that said that said collective selling was not legal, and the individual clubs sell there which clearly leads to a huge disparity in incomes between the top club, Juventus, and the smallest clubs. There is a ratio of something like 17 or 18 to one in terms of television income.

  Q1417  Lord Peston: Just to interrupt you on that one, when I watch Inter against Milan on Bravo, Bravo would have bought that from either Inter or Milan in order to show it to me?

  Mr Scudamore: Yes, that is quite difficult because that is the international distribution. It depends on which matches have been put into that package. A group of clubs have got together and pooled their rights for the purposes of selling them internationally. In Italy they have sold them individually.

  Q1418  Lord Peston: So if were an Italian I would have to—

  Mr Scudamore: You would have to buy the matches; you can buy them individually because clubs sell them individually.

  Q1419  Lord Peston: I was asking you about La Liga. Is that yet another?

  Mr Scudamore: La Liga again is individual but when I last checked, which was a couple of weeks ago, Sogecable have bought every single club's individual rights, so they have got themselves back to a collective position, having bought them all individually.


 
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