The prospect of every Premier League match being screened live but with ‘regional blackouts’ has been raised by the head of Virgin Media.
The broadcasting regulator Ofcom is investigating a complaint by Virgin Media which claims the way the Premier League sells its rights breaches competition law, though it may be another year before the outcome is known.
Virgin Media’s chief executive Tom Mockridge says it is wrong that only 40 per cent of Premier League matches are shown live and that elsewhere in Europe every single match is available to be watched by television viewers.
He said the Premier League could follow the example of the NFL in the USA where regional blackouts operate to protect attendances – for example viewers in the Manchester area could not watch live home games involving the Manchester clubs.
Mockridge said: “Would it not be better if the lower leagues had a greater share of the money rather than the benefit of this blackout? You could address the blackout in a geographic way – that’s the system they use in the USA and it works very well.
“In Europe all games are available on TV. Should the Premier League be able to decide which games you watch from the comfort of your armchair or almost force you go out and watch. It is too much like a nanny state.”
Mockridge also claims the Premier League could enjoy yet another huge rise in income from TV rights in the next round of negotiations for the 2019-2022 rights comparable to the rise for the £5.1billion domestic rights for 2016-19.
At the moment live football cannot be shown at 3pm on Saturdays in order to protect attendances and also matches at grassroots level.