ITV have regained half of the rights to the FA Cup from BT Sport, making coverage of the oldest football competition in the world, completely free to view.
For a decade, the rights to the FA Cup have been shared between BBC Sport, which airs games on BBC One, and BT Sport, which charges a subscription for its channels.
The last decade has seen a dramatic and frankly disgraceful fall of live football on free to view television in the United Kingdom. The FA Cup, the Champions League and the Europa League used to all be aired free to view, but alas no more.
The FA Cup returning to the major national broadcasters is hopefully a sign that ‘big bucks’ rights deals to subscription operators simply hasn’t worked, and that the national game returns to free tv en-masse.
It has always been my view anyway, even since the days of ITV Digital, that there is not enough room in the United Kingdom for two subscription sports services offering mainstream football coverage.
Ideally, over the coming months, a move to see the European football right return to the national terrestrial broadcasters, would return the status quo back in favour of the viewing public, and away from stakeholders and shareholders.
The downside to the new ITV deal with the FA, is that it doesn’t kick in for another two years, starting in the 2021/22 season.