Manchester United executive vice-chair Ed Woodward believes new media providers including Facebook and Amazon could well usurp traditional forms of media to win Premier League and Champions League broadcasting rights in the near future.
The Premier League’s current TV deal sees Sky Sports and BT Sport each taking a portion of the broadcast rights, while the latter also show exclusive Champions League football in the UK alongside other traditional national outlets across Europe.
But Woodward says there is a growing possibility that the next TV negotiations will include some new names with innovative ideas in how to reach the increasingly-diverse audiences across both the UK and global markets.
“Absolutely I think they’ll enter the mix,” Woodward admitted when asked about Facebook and Amazon’s interest. “Anecdotally there was strong interest in the last cycle, and we’re hearing that around the Premier League table but we’re also hearing that from a European perspective as well in terms of interest in the Champions League and Europa rights.
“In the wider picture you have to look what’s happening elsewhere at the moment. Looking at the interest Facebook and Amazon had in the Indian Premier League [cricket] rights anecdotally sounded like very big numbers. Secondly, Amazon has taken over the Thursday night streaming from Twitter for the NFL and, thirdly, the MLS deal with Facebook is very interesting to broadcast 22 games in the regular season.
“So I do think we are going to see an increase in engagement from these and we would welcome the interest. I think it’s going to be increasingly important to digitally engage with fans, and we think we can be complementary to partners like this coming in.”
Woodward was speaking after announcing United’s Full Year financial results for 2016-17, which showed record total revenue of £581.2 million and an 18.3 per cent drop in net debt to £213.1m.
The strides made financially came despite United not taking part in the Champions League last season, but the club is set to make less than usual from its participation due to their qualification through the Europa League rather than league positioning.
“We do not share in the market pool distributed to the four teams in England who qualified according to their league positions,” explained Man Utd chief financial officer Cliff Baty. “If you finish top you get 40%, finishing fourth you get 10%. For example if you finish third you get 20%, and roughly that would work out at about £10m.
“So in terms of looking at what we’ll make from the Champions League this year clearly it is performance dependent, but we’ve always said it’s between £40m and £50m so it will be roughly £10m less than that because we miss out on that pool.”
Woodward added: “The range that we set out there encapsulates the various finishing positions within the Premier League, and from a Champions League perspective it’s the same across all the cups which is a quarter-final assumption.”