OPINION: The next Premier League TV deal means more live games, one less provider to subscribe to, and potential for broadcast and streaming innovation. However, Brits may never get live access to every single game.
The Premier League is removing some of the restrictions behind watching live games on TV in the UK, but fans will have to wait for two more seasons before reaping the benefits.
For years, Brits have struggled to watch their team live every week due to draconian rules surrounding televised games, which are unfit for the modern era of streaming and multi-screen viewing.
That changes somewhat for the 2025/26 season under the new £6.7 billion rights agreement announced by the league today.
Excluding the traditional blackout time for Saturday 3pm kick-offs, every other Premier League game will be available to watch live on either Sky Sports or TNT Sports. That’s a minimum of 267 of the total 380 games live. The current deal accounts for only 200 live games.
That means every one of the Sunday 2pm kick-offs will air live, ending the completely nonsensical practice of multiple games involving teams who play in Europe on Thursday nights not being aired.
Last weekend that included three games being blacked out in the UK, including one of the games of the weekend – Liverpool’s dramatic 4-3 win over Fulham at Anfield.
You couldn’t watch that game (or the excellent Villa vs Bournemouth or Chelsea vs Brighton games) live legally in the UK, forcing Brits who pay hundreds of pounds a year to watch Premier League football – currently across three Pay TV services – to resort to skirting geo-restrictions with VPNs or straight-up illegal streams.
The same goes for the many midweek fixtures that are currently and inexplicably unavailable, as Sky can pick only one of the games per night of action.
Again, these games aren’t competing with the 3pm Saturday football league and non-league fixtures and cannot affect those attendances, which is the long-time explanation (with some justification) for the blackouts on Saturdays.
It’s maddening and differs completely to the way the Premier League sells rights around the world as a complete package to a single rights holder. When I’m in the US, I can watch all 380 games and so can my friend in France, for instance. And we’re certainly not paying what Brits are to maintain Sky Sports, TNT Sports, and Amazon Prime subscriptions.
These changes rectify that for the most part. During those kick-off windows, fans will be able to have multiple screens up, following all the action live. Perhaps it’ll open the door to Sky and TNT apps offering multiscreen viewing? It’s common in the US on platforms like Fubo TV. Perhaps we’ll even get an NFL Redzone style show that follows every game and shows the best moments from each more or less as they happen?
The last bastion of restrictions on viewing is that Saturday 3 o’clock slot and I can understand why the football powers insist on keeping the time it sacred for fans attending games around the country.
Would less have turned out in sub-zero temperatures to watch, say, Newport County vs Barnet in the FA Cup on Saturday if Liverpool vs Fulham kicked off at the same time and was live on Sky? Probably.
However, everything else was unacceptable and it’s just a shame we must wait another season and a half for the new deal to come into play. I just hope Sky and TNT – from that point the only two games in town – don’t raise the prices to account for their extra games.
However, considering both are paying more for the rights the prices and TNT has taken on Amazon’s games, prices are probably going to go up.
More games for Sky and TNT
In some ways, reducing the number of providers to two broadcasters is beneficial. Having to subscribe to a third provider to watch the two matchdays on Amazon Prime Video was unreasonable – even though millions have Prime subscriptions anyway and this essentially opened-up access to at least some live top flight football for no extra cost.
So this new TV deal represents progress for fans who’ve been paying forking out to watch only half of the games. But it’s not perfect and probably never will be unless the Premier League ditches 3pm Saturday kick-offs completely.
I hope that doesn’t happen.
The time slot derives from a change in the law in the mid-19th century to curtail factory working hours at Saturday lunchtime. Get out of work, and get off to the match. And, before the advent of floodlights, it enabled the games to be played in winter before it got too dark.
No-one wants that wonderful tradition to end. The reverence should remain and the football pyramid must be protected from the rampant greed of the Premier League and the club owners.
For fans, though, this new TV deal is a more acceptable middle ground.