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Media BBC Match of the Day

Gary Lineker fears ‘rights issues’ rather than digital could be the death of Match of the Day


By Jessica Goodfellow | Media Reporter

October 14, 2016 | 5 min read

Footballer turned sports presenter Gary Lineker fears the BBC’s flagship football show Match of the Day (MOTD) could cease to exist on TV screens if the cost of broadcast rights continues to soar but has dismissed live-streaming on Facebook and Twitter as a threat.

Gary Lineker at IAB

Gary Lineker at IAB

Speaking at IAB’s Engage conference this week, he warned the organisation that while the show is a “strong brand” we are living in a “world of rights issues” and it shouldn’t be taken for granted.

He went on to remind the audience that the BBC has lost the rights before. Formula One and the Olympics are some of the heavy losses the organisation has had to endure in order to help find an additional £550m of savings by 2021/22, with Lineker wary that its long-running football highlights show could be for the chopping block.

“It is tough times for the BBC, whether [or not] we can maintain the rights and the amount of money that it costs, because it is an expensive game,” he said.

His sentiments refer to the ballooning cost of sports rights that saw Sky and BT Sport shell out an eye-watering £5.1bn to secure the latest broadcast rights for the Premier League. What’s more these broadcasters may soon have to contend with new digital players with deep pockets, as highlighted by Twitter’s NFL deal, Yahoo’s plans to stream a daily basketball game and Facebook’s equally ambitious plans to win in the highlights game.

Despite the looming power of social in sport, Lineker does not believe technology will disrupt football coverage in the longterm, challenging “do you really want to watch a game like that?”.

“You can watch a goal on Twitter 10 minutes after it has happened, but it is still not the same, so I am not so concerned,” he mused.

He added that in many ways MOTD “bucks the trend”, asserting that “if you have got something that is of value to the nation” the audience numbers will match.

“We generally get somewhere between 3.5 and 5 million and another 2 million watching the Sunday morning repeat. They are massive numbers and they have not dipped at all because people are watching on their feeds and on their apps,” he said.

Meanwhile, when pressed on the Government’s plans to disclose the names of all of its employees and presenters paid more than £150,000 a year, Lineker bemoaned it as the “bugbear” of working for the BBC.

“It is just another one of the little agendas against the BBC that has been spiced up by the media,” he said. “If people have to know how much I earn they have to know how much I earn.”

That said, Lineker may have found a loophole since he is not a direct employee of the BBC, instead he receives his pay through an agency, “I am not quite sure of the nuances of it yet,” he admitted.

The BBC's "one downside" is the fact that the money comes from the licence fee, Lineker said, suggesting it would be better for the broadcaster if they were to double its price but also make it voluntary, because “that is the problem isn’t it, that you have to pay for the licence”.

“If they put it up a bit, and give people the choice. After all, it is the price of a cup of coffee a week. No one seems to ever have a go at Sky or the monstrous fees that they charge for football,” he concluded.

Media BBC Match of the Day

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