With Sky’s live football audience figures down by a reported 19% so far this season, it seems our viewing habits may be undergoing a radical transformation.
Are we swapping watching whole matches – with all the over-hyped build-up, endless punditry and overdone post-mortems – for highlight shows, video clips on YouTube on other platforms, following the sport on social media or finding free (and illegal) streams to get our fix of the beautiful game?
According to some of the football fans, who spoke to Elephant Sport on the subject, the grip of ‘appointment to view’ must-see match coverage is being loosened as technology converges and we get our football ‘on the go’.
Joseph Mensah, 21, say if football is live on TV he will watch it, but adds that he will never go out of his way to view a match because there is always a highlights show on later.
“At home, I have Virgin TV which gives me both Sky Sports and BT Sports, which are the main broadcasters of Premier League football in the UK, so whenever football is on TV I will always watch it.
“I never bother streaming it from illegal websites because the quality is poor or the commentary will be in another language, so I would rather wait and watch the highlights where I can watch all of the weekend’s games at one time.”
Finding an overseas stream to view the action is becoming more widespread, despite Sky and BT’s best efforts to stamp out this illegal practice.
With the ban on televising 3pm Saturday kick-offs in the UK still in place to protect attendances at games across the country, the temptation to find a way of catching those matches as they are screened abroad is too tempting for some.
“In the past decade, the use of social media platforms and a growing number of apps to follow football has gone through the roof”
One viewer, who wished to remain anonymous, said he has been using overseas streams to watch football for around eight years.
“Why would I pay for subscription TV when streaming is so easy? I don’t mind the lower quality on the screen because it’s free.
“Also with streaming, it allows me to pick and choose which games I watch, I don’t have to rely on the company’s TV schedule, which means 3pm on Saturday afternoons I’m watching the match for free, instead of paying to watch live commentary in a TV studio.”
Another factor in the rise in online streaming is the price of the sports packages on subscription TV.
The cheapest option on Sky is £42 a month, which is just over £500 a year. To add BT Sport to you Sky Package it’s an extra £21.99, so for both Sky and BT Sport it’s a £63.99 a month.
And don’t forget to add the cost of your annual TV licence (£145.50) to the total…
In the past decade, the use of social media platforms and a growing number of apps to follow football has gone through the roof.
Twitter alone has with 313 million active users (as of June 2016), and there is a community of football clubs accounts, news outlets and broadcasting companies that provide users with a live feed of matches.
Younger audiences are glued to their phones and social media accounts so live commentary of football matches on Twitter are quick and easy ways to follow games. Twitter also allows users to have their say so people are able to reply and retweet.
Organisations such as BT Sport release clips of key moments such as goals, missed chances and sending offs in as little as two minutes after it was broadcast on live subscription TV (right).
Student Randy Adu, only consumes football through live Twitter feeds and highlight clips on Twitter accounts.
“I think Twitter is the best way to follow football, you can choose what games to follow. I also like that I can find clips of the key moments, which means I can skip all the boring bits.”
News outlets have also taken to social media to encourage fans to follow football using their “on the go” services.
The Times have put together packs which include different ways to view exclusive, video highlights, live feeds and expert analysis with chief football Writer Henry Winter as the poster boy of the campaign.
The ‘Classic Pack’ offers in print, on your smartphone and online 24/7 access to the latest news, with a complimentary Nespresso machine and many more offers available through Times + for only £7 a week.
Stats and timelines
Accounts such as Opta and Squawka always provide interesting match stats during and after games, and many people follow them to find out exactly what happened in the game rather than watching it.
“You can also tweet them directly asking for specific stats and if you are lucky they get back to you with an answer.”
The way we consume football is undoubtedly changing, and there are many factors involved in this.
However, one thing that has not changed is the love for the game and that is emphasised by the lengths that people go to follow the latest action.
The NFL now gives access to live game coverage through Twitter – how long will it be before football supplies a similar service to its fans?