More than a third of Premier League football fans say they regularly watch matches live online via unofficial and illegal streaming services, according to a survey by the BBC. Sky and BT Sport currently hold the live rights to Premier League football in the UK, but a large number of illegal streams have proliferated.
The poll, which surveyed 1,000 people, found that younger adults are the most likely to say they stream matches via unauthorised providers, but nearly half of all fans said they had streamed at least one match through an unofficial provider. Around 20 per cent of respondents said they did so at least once a week.
Nearly a quarter of all fans surveyed regularly watched matches online through special technology, such as Kodi boxes, which have become popular among consumers and are often hacked by users or sold on by third parties with software enabling access to subscription-only services.
Just under a third of fans were not aware whether or not it is legal to stream live Premier League matches from unofficial providers, but another third believed it was always illegal. The main reasons for streaming from unauthorised sources included watching with friends or family, the quality of the stream or because sports TV packages were too expensive or not considered good value for money.
“People need to be aware that this is no longer a grey area, in fact it is very black and white,” said Kieron Sharp, director general of the Federation Against Copyright Theft. “If you are accessing content for free such as sport, TV and films for which you’d normally need to buy a subscription, or go to the cinema, or buy a DVD, this is illegal.”
The Premier League is fighting hard against illegal services, which threaten the money it makes for exclusive streaming rights. Sky and BT Sport paid a record £5.14bn for the rights to show live matches for three seasons, but last season saw the biggest drop in live viewing figures for seven years, with BT down by two per cent and Sky by a massive 14 per cent.
“Fans should know that these pre-loaded boxes enable pirate broadcasts of Premier League football, and other popular content, and are illegal,” said a Premier League spokesperson. “People who supply them have been jailed or ordered to pay significant financial penalties. We are increasingly seeing prominent apps and add-ons being closed down as the law catches up with them, leading to consumers being out of pocket.”