Virgin Media’s once again weighing into the Premier League over the way it denies UK viewers the chance to watch 3pm kick off games, stating that folks as far away Iran and Algeria can readily enjoy such games.
The cable company is stepping up its criticism of the current situation in the wake of an ongoing Ofcom investigation into how rights to English Premier League games are sold.
Currently, the FA insists on maintaining a broadcast curfew on Saturday games that kick off around 3pm, ostensibly to protect local match attendance.
Related: Sky Sports scores rights to 3pm kick off highlights ‘til 2019This situation means that some of these games can be broadcast in the Republic of Ireland by Sky, but prohibits these same games from being shown in Northern Ireland, or anywhere else in the UK.
Virgin Media’s CEO Tom Mockridge said in a blog post: “Want to watch Chelsea vs Norwich, Manchester United vs West Ham, or Manchester City vs Southampton live on TV in the next few weeks? Then forget it.
“This season there will be 380 Premier League games played but only 154 will be available to watch live on TV, denying many loyal fans the opportunity of seeing top-flight games on the small screen.”
Mockridge points to research showing that over 70 per cent of football fans want the 3pm ringfence removed and 66 per cent saying that they’re paying too much to watch games at home.
Sky and BT have snapped up broadcast rights to all of the available Premier League games for the next three seasons, none of which will be 3pm games.
Virgin Media was unsuccessful in its attempts to halt the auction, but persuaded telecoms regulator Ofcom to launch an investigation into the sales of Premier League games. Ofcom begun its investigation last November, but it’s yet to signal when it may be ready to publish its findings.
In the meantime, Virgin Media continues to up the pressure on the Premier League, with stunts like the nudge-nudge #MoreBalls campaign, which saw it handing out free meatballs to attendees of the Chelsea vs Sunderland game, one of the 226 games that’s not being shown on British screens this season.
As the recent launch of Ash vs Evil Dead proves, Virgin’s got some cash that it’s keen to splash on original content, which makes you wonder what it’s got in store should Ofcom rule that the Premier League open up those 3pm Saturday games.