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How Dependent Are Football Clubs On Broadcasting and Media Revenue?

men on coach watching football on tvOn April 2, 2024, Netflix exclusively released Together: Treble Winners1 in over 200 countries. The docuseries follows Manchester City’s treble winning 2022/23 season. Starting with the arrival of Erling Haaland from Dortmund for €60 million (£51.5 million) to the 1-0 win over Inter in the Champions League final in Istanbul, Turkey. The streaming service reportedly paid a seven-figure sum for the six-part series produced by the club’s in-house media team, City Studios.

The deal is characteristic for the trend of clubs no longer being just football clubs, but global sports entertainment organisations. And to be successful at this, clubs need to have an up to par, if not excellent, media and creative content creation team.

So, how important is media for football clubs? And how has this changed over time?

Football market has grown and transformed

chart revenue generated by clubs in the big five leagues and premier league in 1996-97 and 2021-22

The football market has gone through a major transformation in the last two to three decades. Shifting to a hybrid of sports, media, and entertainment, while growing significantly. In 1996/97, the Big Five leagues’ clubs combined generated almost €2.5 billion in revenue.2 This rose to €17.24 billion by 2021/22. During that period, Premier League clubs increased their revenue 9.4 times from €685 million in 1996/97 to €6.44 billion in 2021/22.

One major factor behind this growth is broadcasting revenue, which is an important income source for clubs. In 2021/22, 51 percent of the Big Five clubs’ total revenue came from broadcasting. There are differences between the leagues though. The Premier League clubs generated €3.488 billion (£3 billion) from broadcasting. Which made up 54 percent of the total revenue these 20 clubs generated. France’s Ligue 1 clubs only generated 36 percent of their revenue from broadcasting, the lowest percentage amongst the five leagues. Spanish clubs generated the most from broadcasting with 59 percent, followed by Italy (57 percent). While German clubs generated 44 percent of their total revenue (€3.149 billion) from broadcasting (€1.38 billion).

Percentage of revenue generated from broadcasting in 2021/22

League Broadcasting/total revenue (%)
La Liga (ESP) 59%
Serie A (ITA) 57%
Premier League (ENG) 54%
Bundesliga (GER) 44%
Ligue 1 (FRA) 36%
Big Five leagues 51%

Top Six less dependent on broadcasting revenue

chart percentage of total revenue generated by broadcasting for the premier league top 6

The Premier League’s Top Six generated 39 percent of their revenue (€4.008 billion) from broadcasting (€1.581 billion) in 2022/23.3 With more commercial and matchday income, these six clubs are generally less ‘dependent’ on broadcasting revenue than non-Top Six clubs. However, there are differences amongst them in the share of total revenue coming from broadcasting.

In 2022/23, Manchester City generated the highest amount of broadcasting revenue with €344 million. Which was 42 percent of the €826 million in revenue they generated overall.

Chelsea had the highest ‘dependency’ on broadcasting revenue (€260 million), as it made up 44 percent of their total revenue (€589 million).

Manchester United only generated 32 percent of their total revenue (€746 million) from broadcasting (€240). The lowest percentage amongst the Top Six. Five percent point less than Tottenham, despite similar broadcasting income (€235 million).

Media is more than broadcasting

youtube app on phone close upBroadcasting revenue is no longer the only media-related income for clubs though. As the way fans consume and engage with (their favourite) football clubs and players has changed drastically over the years. Match broadcasts and in-stadium engagement were the main points of contact for clubs.

These days, clubs are expected, and maybe even required, to be in constant contact with their (potential) fans. Spurred on by the rise of new media, a young generation consuming entertainment, media, and sports in a new way, and competition from entertainment alternatives (e.g. esports).

Hence, why most clubs create unique and diverse video content for their social media channels (e.g. X, YouTube), app, website, and, if existing, their own TV and/or OTT channel.

Major differences in numbers, but match highlights most viewed

chart number of subscribers to clubs you tube channel premier league clubs 2024

This also applies to the 2023/24 Premier League clubs. All 20 of them have a YouTube channel where they post content including practice sessions, press conferences, interviews, features (e.g. improve stadium experience for the hearing impaired), match highlights, and sponsored content (e.g. Uber eats cook off).

During a given matchday week (observed data between April 1-7, 2024), the clubs posted on average 10 videos. While Brentford and Wolves only posted four videos each during that period, Brighton posted 5.75 times as often with 23 videos. Apart from these differences between the number of posts, there are also major differences in the number of views.

Across the board, (extended) match highlights generate the most views for teams. With Wolves (92k views) and Brentford (95k views) having the lowest most-viewed content during the observed week. Manchester United’s highlights of their match against Liverpool had 3.5 million views (the highest amount). The number of views is logically related to the relevance (of a match and its result) and the number of fans a club has.

The Top Six are the most popular clubs, also on YouTube. Liverpool has the most channel subscribers with 9.77 million (as of April 2024). Followed by Manchester United (8.82 million) and Manchester City (7.23 million). Tottenham has the least amount of YouTube subscribers amongst the Top Six with 3.43 million. Which is still 4.2 times as many as the non-Top Six club with the highest number of subscribers, Everton (809k). Luton Town has the lowest number of subscribers (126k) amongst 2023/24 Premier League clubs.

There are thus major variances in number of subscribers and views. With the Top Six clubs having a (far) broader reach than their counterparts. Making it more worthwhile for them to invest in producing high-quality content as it will likely have a higher return on investment.

On-demand and live streaming

Apart from YouTube and other social media channels, clubs offer their content through their own digital channels. With on-demand and live (audio or video) streaming offered on the clubs’ official website and app (18 out of 20 2023/24 Premier League clubs have an official app).

Number of 2023/24 Premier League clubs with…

What Number of clubs
On-demand video content on website and YouTube 20
Application 18
Linear TV channel 2

Access differs between clubs. While some give access for free, others have a subscription-based model. There are clubs who require fans to register, despite the content being freely accessible. The latter can be beneficial for clubs, as customer data can be used to improve the monetisation of fan relationships. For example, by targeting certain groups of fans with specific sponsored content or deals.

Subscription packages

chart yearly subscription fee for on-demand packages including full match replays

14 of the 2023/24 Premier League clubs (70 percent) also offer full match replays (time-delayed due to broadcasting rights deals). Brentford and Chelsea offer this for free on their website and app. Three clubs require registration, while nine clubs include full match replays in one of their subscription packages. With fees ranging between £20 and £60 per year.

Clubs do have more freedom to stream pre-season, academy, and women games. Fans can often watch pre-season games on a pay-per-view basis, with prices varying. During the 2023/24 pre-season, West Ham and Wolves charged fans £5 and £6 per match respectively. Everton charged £8.99 per match, making an official membership subscription more cost-effective at four matches while also giving many other benefits. Chelsea, on the other hand, charged fans nothing to stream their 2023/24 pre-season matches.

Premier League clubs with an own TV channel

mutv app on phoneWhere all clubs offer on-demand video content in one way or another, there are only two Premier League clubs who have their own TV channel: Manchester United and Liverpool. MUTV and LFCTV are linear TV channels (available via Virgin Media and Sky in the UK), that are also accessible via OTT platforms (website and app).

A linear TV channel is a major investment that is not feasible and profitable for most clubs. Chelsea TV ended as a 24/7 channel on Sky in July 2019 after 18 years (launched in August 2001). With the club moving its content and live shows online onto the club’s website and 5th Stand app.

Arsenal also moved their content to online-only after their channel Arsenal TV was taken off the air after a year and a half. The channel had launched in January 2008 as the result of a joint venture with Setanta Sports. However, the company ran into financial difficulties and the Gunners did not have the resources to run a linear channel on their own.

LFCTV was also part of the Setanta Sports package and launched in 2007. Contrary to Arsenal, it was feasible for Liverpool to continue and thus become a stand-alone channel.

Premier League linear tv channels

Club – channel When
Manchester United – MUTV 1998-now
Chelsea – Chelsea TV 2001-2019
Liverpool – LFCTV 2007-now
Arsenal – Arsenal TV 2008-2009

MUTV broadcasting since 1998

old trafford home of manchester united

Manchester United’s TV channel, MUTV, has been on the air the longest with its first broadcast on September 10, 1998.

MUTV Limited, the company behind the channel, started out as an equal equity interest joint venture between Manchester United and British media companies ITV plc and Sky Ventures Limited (a wholly owned subsidiary of Sky). United provided the intellectual property, while ITV plc provided the capability and Sky the distribution. MUTV broadcasted regular news and views to thousands of fans in those early days. Including a live broadcast of the treble-winning parade at the end of the 1998/99 season.

In November 2007, ITV sold its one-third stake to United for a reported £3.3 million in cash.

The club then went on to buy Sky’s one-third stake in January 2013, for a purchase consideration (including transaction costs) of £2.664 million. A strategic acquisition, so the club would own ‘100% of the content production and distribution’.4 By that time, United believed to have developed enough in-house expertise to satisfy their desire to have full control and thus also reap full rewards.

Timeline ownership MUTV

When What
September 1998 Manchester United, ITV and Sky enter equal equity interest joint venture
November 2007 ITV sells their one-third stake to Manchester United for £3.3 million in cash
January 2013 Manchester United acquires Sky’s one-third stake for £2.664 million

Revenue generated from MUTV

chart revenue generated from mutv 2010 to 2023

While MUTV remains on air, there have been fluctuations in the amount of revenue the channel has generated throughout the years.5 In the fiscal year ending 30 June 2010, MUTV generated £7.4 million in revenue. In 2013, when the club took full control of the business, the channel generated £8.6 million, before dropping to £6.7 million the following year.

By 2018, while the first team was managed by José Mourinho, MUTV’s revenue reached £10.7 million. The highest amount since 2010. However, for the fiscal year 2023, MUTV revenue dropped to £6.1 million. Which was a 10 percent decrease compared to the year prior and the lowest amount since 2010.

With total broadcasting revenue for fiscal year 2023 amounting to £209.1 million, MUTV contributed 2.9 percent to total broadcasting revenue. While the channel generated less than one percent of total revenue (£648 million).

Staff running the media output

To run a channel like this and to create high-quality content, football clubs employ a lot of non-footballing staff. In 2013, MUTV had a staff of 60 who were based at various of the club’s offices and a studio at training ground Carrington.4

By 2023, the club had 104 people working in their media department (likely most, if not all, linked to MUTV).6 Which was 9.4 percent of the club’s average number of employees (1,112) and 10 people more than the year prior.

Average number of employees working in Manchester United’s media department

What 2023 2022 2021
Media 104 94 90
Total 1,112 1,035 983
Media/total (%) 9.4% 9.1% 9.2%

Liverpool employed 701 people fulltime (70 percent of total) in administration, commercial and other roles in financial year 2023. Would the same percentage (13 percent) of this group work in the media department as is the case for Manchester United, it would mean around 92 people contribute directly to Liverpool’s media output and LFCTV.

Improved product

man holding football outside stadium looking at phone happyApart from the linear TV network and the website, Manchester United launched a direct to customer application for MUTV during the 2016/17 season. Which was available in over 167 territories by June 2019. MUTV delivered programming linearly to over 56 countries and territories by that time. By December 2022, United noted how their linear TV network made MUTV the ‘most subscribed football channel in the UK and many other markets around the world’.

To streamline the user experience by removing the need for fans to use multiple apps, United incorporated MUTV into their main global application in May 2022. They also added new features including messaging, matchday audio, and access to the club’s Premier League matches. By opening the archive of 1,100 games and 2,100 goals over a thirty-year period, the digital offering increased significantly.6

The improved media products resulted in a 75 percent increase in app and website registrations in 2022/23 compared to the year prior. While subscriptions to United’s linear television network rose with 31 percent.6

Current availability of MUTV

Flags of the World

By June 2023, MUTV was available in 230 markets globally. With the linear television network distributed in 72 markets via 13 partners, including a long-standing partnership with Sky in the UK and Ireland (running until June 2025).

MUTV is also accessible via 476 TV or connected device manufacturers. Including four Connected TV platforms – Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, and Xbox.6 The latter causes a broader possible reach as Connected TV usage is highest among Millennials and Generation Z.

Risks to media income

streaming football on a mobileUnited’s 2023 annual report notes several risk factors6 around MUTV and the revenue it can generate. First, how piracy and illegal live streaming can have a negative effect on the club’s revenue from broadcasting rights and their online and MUTV services. Broadcasting revenue made up 32 percent of United’s total revenue in the year ending 30 June 2023.6 It is thus important for the club’s financial health.

The report also highlights how consumers viewing of televised sporting events is changing due to the emergence of alternative platforms. Clubs such as United thus must adapt their licensing practices or their media platforms to not lose viewers nor to observe a negative effect on the value of advertising and sponsorships.

Behind the scenes docuseries

amazon prime video app on phone close upOne way to adapt is by creating high-quality behind the scenes content, because there is certainly demand for it. Apparent by major streaming services, like Amazon Prime, investing in broadcasting rights and ‘fly on the wall’ sports documentaries.

Amazon’s All or Nothing franchise debuted in 2016 by following the goings of National Football League team the Arizona Cardinals. Produced by Amazon Studios, there have so far been three Premier League clubs who have given access behind the scenes.

Manchester City were followed in their 2017/18 campaign, reportedly earning over £10 million from the deal. In 2020, Amazon released All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur following the Spurs in a COVID-19 hit season in which José Mourinho took over from Mauricio Pochettino.

London rivals Arsenal’s docuseries of eight episodes was released in 2022. It follows the club’s progress during the 2021/22 season in which the Gunners finished fifth in the Premier League. The club reportedly earned about £10 million from allowing cameras access to their organisation.

Juventus and the Brazilian and German national teams are the other football organisations followed by Amazon Studios for the All or Nothing franchise in recent years.

Behind the scenes docuseries following English football clubs

Club Platform Title Release
Manchester City Amazon Prime All or Nothing: Manchester City 2018
Sunderland Netflix Sunderland ‘Till I Die 2018, 2020, 2024
Leeds United Amazon Prime Take Us Home: Leeds United 2019, 2020
Tottenham Hotspur Amazon Prime All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur 2020
Wrexham AFC Disney+ Welcome to Wrexham 2022, 2023, 2024
Arsenal Amazon Prime All or Nothing: Arsenal 2022
Manchester City Netflix Together: Treble Winners 2024

Following the dream of promotion

PromotionsApart from the All or Nothing series, there have also been docuseries following lower-league teams in their bid to gain promotion. Amazon Prime Video released Take Us Home: Leeds United. The two-season series follows historical club Leeds United in their bid to gain promotion to the Premier League under Marcelo Bielsa during the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons.

Cameras also captured Sunderland’s bid to gain promotion back to the Premier League during the 2017/18 season. However, a 24th place finish by the Black Cats in the Championship meant relegation to the English third tier. The journey was documented by production company Fulwell 73 (named in reference to the club) in Sunderland ‘Till I Die. In 2018, Netflix released the first season. Due to its success two more seasons were released in 2020 and 2024.

Sunderland’s docuseries inspired Hollywood stars Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds to buy Wrexham AFC in 2021. To tell the club’s story, and thereby increase its reach, they created a docuseries to broadcast on American channel FX and Disney+.

The numbers upon the first season’s release outperformed ’the most optimistic projections’. After four weeks, Wrexham saw a 19.2 percent increase across its social media channels. The club’s merchandise sales (£360,000) during those four weeks were six times those during the same period the year prior (£59,674). And the series is now set to release its third season in 2024.

City selling their own content

manchester city football academy press conference studioIn April 2024, another behind the scenes docuseries of Manchester City premiered on an international OTT platform.1 This time on Netflix. Contrary to City’s docuseries for Amazon, this one was created by the club’s own in-house media team, City Studios. Together: Treble Winners follows the club’s historic 2022/23 season and is just one of several instalments in City’s Together series. Had the rights not been exclusively sold to Netflix or another streaming service, the club would have provided it to their fans through their on-demand video platform City+.

With Netflix buying the rights for a seven-sum figure, it shows the demand for such content and at the same time the potential of in-house content creation. The latter does require investments, something not all clubs have the resources for.

When Manchester City opened their £200 million City Football Academy in 2014, they also invested in a press conference studio. Delivering the broadcasting lighting of that studio alone cost around £35k.

Bringing content creation in-house

manchester city in house content creation example

Despite the cost, City believed the investment in a content hub like City Studios to be wise as the production of high-quality content has now become crucial. Furthermore, it helps the club in its quest to entertain fans through its digital channels, which the club deems essential in their approach to fan engagement.7

Opened during the 2021/22 season, the in-house production hub is located at the heart of the club’s grounds. Which simplifies the creation of (branded) content with players, coaches, and sponsorship partners around training requirements.

City Studios has also broadened the club’s video output via its various digital channels. With a focus on creativity and production expertise, City’s new approach has improved the quality of content with long-form video and live programming boosting viewing figures. During the 2022/23 season, City’s Matchday Live shows regularly drew 1.4 million views, while the show around the Champions League final attracted 6.2 million viewers.7 The club also saw almost a doubling of the number of app downloads, while video views on their main social media accounts increased to 6.9 billion (up 107 percent year-on-year).

The potential of branded content

european super league twelve clubs logosApart from subscriptions revenue, clubs need to see a return on such investments through higher sponsorship deals. Research shows that brand recall is 21 percent higher for branded content compared to pre-roll advertising. As fans and audiences are more open to commercial messages endorsed by their favourite club or players.

During the 2022/23 season, City launched several branded campaigns.7 Such as the ‘Home Challenge’ series with consumer appliances partner Midea and ‘Etihad Travel Tales’ with Etihad Airways featuring several players.

It contributed to City being ranked as the number one Premier League club for video views and total engagements for all partner-related content across its social media channels.7 The club also delivered the most value to its partners (excluding non-kit partners) via branded content.

Which suggests that City’s strategy to create an in-house media hub has reaped its first rewards. More and more clubs may follow suit. After all, producing high-quality content has become critical for reach and the standard for major football organisations as they have turned into sports entertainment businesses.


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