With the football season about to kick-off, armchair fanatics are likely to be renewing contracts so they can watch their teams from the comfort of their own home.
Sky certainly seems like good value for the number of games broadcast. The channel will show 126 Premier League games this season and 127 English Football League (EFL) matches this season. That’s alongside the league cup, Scottish football, overseas leagues and international football. These 500 plus live matches might sound like a bargain for ardent football fans.
But how many will you actually watch? It’s unlikely you’ll actually see all those Premier League matches, let alone all the others. And if you’re like me, you might only going to be interested in watching the team you support, and perhaps a couple of big derbies. Will you be paying over the odds for this?
I wanted to find out how much it costs to watch all the televised games in a season for each Premier League teams via Sky – and see if there are actually cheaper ways to see the same number of games.
How many times was your team on Sky TV last season?
I’ve gone through all the fixtures from last season to find out which matches were shown live on Sky Sports, and while I was at it I also noted down those on BT Sport. The first table below shows both the broadcasters with teams in alphabetical order. Then the second table is just the Sky games, but sorted with the most showings at the top and the least at the bottom.
It won’t surprise you to see that the big teams are picked for broadcast more than those that struggle. So Arsenal, Liverpool and the two Manchester sides let the way with 20 live games shown on Sky, and Tottenham and Chelsea only had one game less broadcast. Each had more than half of their league games broadcast on Sky – and moved away from Saturday at 3pm.
There was then a 25% plus drop for historically well-supported teams like Newcastle, West Ham and Everton who had 15, 14 and 13 matches on Sky respectively. I’d imagine these numbers are a good indicator for the amount of games you’ll get to see in 2018/19 if you support one of these teams.
But doing well doesn’t guarantee you’ll get to watch more. Burnley had only nine matches live, while my team Crystal Palace might have finished the season in 11th, but only seven games were shown. So if you support a middle-ranking team you’re unlikely to see more than 10 games on Sky TV, while I’d expect newly promoted teams like Wolves to get a similar number to Huddersfield – a measly five games.
How much does it cost to watch the Premier League on Sky Sports?
Before I can work out what you’re paying to watch your team play, I first need to know how much Sky Sports itself costs. There are 11 channels, but most of the Premier League games are on Sky Sports Premier League.
What you pay for this channel depends how you watch it, and what other services you get at the same time, such as broadband and other channels. The usual price via Sky TV is £20 a month for all 11 Sky Sports channels, though that’s likely with an 18-month contract on top of a similarly priced Entertainment subscription. Or you can pay £18 a month for just one channel in SD. It’s another £6 for HD.
You can also get Sky Sports via TalkTalk, Virgin, BT and NOW TV. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to ignore all of these except NOW TV as the prices aren’t that different.
NOW TV, on the other hand, can be a lot cheaper. That’s because there’s no subscription. You can buy a day pass for £7.99, giving you 24 hours of all the Sky Sports channels. Or you can buy a week pass for £12.99 where you can watch for seven days. There’s also a monthly pass, but that’s more expensive than going direct with your TV provider. You might even be able to get these passes for less through a flash sale or special offer.
So I’ll be comparing a £20 a month expense from Sky, versus the one day NOW TV pass.
How much it costs to watch your team on Sky
The season lasts 10 months, but since most people will have signed on for a least 12 months for the Sky channels with Sky, Virgin, BT or TalkTalk, I’m putting the annual cost for watching Premier League TV on Sky at £240. I’m ignoring that you might well be paying more than you need to on other channels, broadband and phone as part of your contract. This is against buying a NOW TV Sky Sports day pass each time your team plays.
So last season you paid the equivalent of £12 a match for the teams at the top, but as much as £48 a game if you were a Terriers supporter.
But even £12 is expensive when compared to just £7.99 a match with the NOW TV day pass. So there’s not a single team where it works out as cheaper to subscribe to Sky per game or over the season.
Here’s how the annual cost compares. Remember I’m going with the figure of £240 a year for Sky Sports, though you may well pay more or less, depending on the offer when you signed up.
Presented like this you get a sense of how much you can save if you watch every one of your team’s live matches. It’s £80 less for Arsenal, Liverpool, Man Utd and Man City; £160 for Leicester, Stoke and Brighton. And a huge £200 for Huddersfield fans.
These calculations are based on the viewing habits of casual sports fans. Those who only really want to watch their team and the odd big match. And it seems like a no-brainer to pay when you watch rather than sign up for 12 or 18 months and pay through the nose.
What if you watch loads of football and other sports?
NOW TV passes can still work for you, but the savings diminish the more sport you watch on Sky.
You’d have to watch 30 days of Sky Sports using NOW TV day passes for the cost to exceed £240 over the year. Since there’s no football over the summer, and some weekends there are no games due to international and cup fixtures, this means you can pretty much watch a game every week for this price.
And since quite often there are two Premier League games shown in a day, you’d likely be able to watch more than 30 matches in that time. If you occasionally switched to week passes you’d be able to get a lot more viewing in – especially over the crowded fixture weeks like at Christmas or the end of the season.
And there are a number of times in a year where you can pick up a free Day Pass or cut-price week pass, meaning you’d save even more money.
But if you are watching the Sky Sports channels most weeks (or even days!) then the annual subscription is still going to be the best value. If you manage (somehow) to watch every single Premier League game, that annual cost of £240 compares at £1.90 a match!
Still, you really should check what you are paying. If it’s been a while since you joined Sky you might find whatever introductory offer you claimed at the start has expired and you’re paying well over £20 a month, especially if you have all the sports channels.
NOW TV vs Sky
Of course price isn’t the only difference between watching via NOW TV and direct with Sky. Firstly, you can’t record any games with NOW TV – it’s live streaming only. So if you are out you’ll miss the game.
Second, NOW TV is only SD (standard definition) quality at the moment. Though this should hopefully change later this year, the quality won’t be as good as if you upgrade with Sky for HD channels, though there’s a cost to do this.
Finally, if you don’t have a compatible smart tv with an inbuilt NOW TV app, you’ll need to buy a NOW TV stick or box to plug into your TV – though these cost £15 or less. And you can always connect your laptop to your TV with a cable too.
What about BT Sport?
BT Sport has another 42 Premier League games this season, as it did last year. As the chart above shows, it’s the big teams who get the bulk of games picked for broadcast. Of course you also get FA Cup and Champions League, which adds even more value for supporters of the best performing clubs. But if you are fan of a smaller team then you are paying well over the odds. Burnley, even with their success last year, only featured once! You’re probably better off going to the pub for the BT Sport matches!
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