It made for dire reading.
According to Stewart Regan, chief executive of the Scottish Football Assocation, and Neil Doncaster, his SPL counterpart, the existing deal, worth circa £15m per season, would disappear to be replaced with one worth just £3m. The fall off is staggering.
While Rangers are a key player as far as the television companies are concerned, they are not the be all and end all of Scottish football. In the 2010/11 season the average viewing figure on Sky was 247,000 per game. Even if all broadcast matches including Rangers are discounted, there would still have been on average a viewership of 180,000 per game. Rangers contributed 27% of the viewing figures, so why should a subsequent TV agreeement without them decrease by 500%?
It doesn't take a genius to work out that this is a terrible deal. The SPL is the 11th most-attended league in Europe, ahead of Switzerland, Austria and Norway, all of whom can command higher television revenue. Even without Rangers, the SPL would still have had higher attendances than the three aforementioned leagues. The Greek league, which has attendances half of our own, has a television deal worth three times as much, while the Norwegians pull in similar numbers.
Are attendances the key indicator here? Can they translate into viewing figures when the Barclays Premier League is on our doorstep and on our screens? Let's look at some leagues in a similar situation, namely the Austrian, Swiss and Norwegian leagues.
The former has a deal with Sky Austria worth £13.5m a season, an arrangement similar to our own. However, while the SPL goes out to 645,000 subscribers in Scotland alone, the Austrian league is broadcast to just 240,000 local subscribers, three times fewer. Like Scotland, Austria is in the shadow of its neighbour and Sky also has the rights to all games in Germany's Bundesliga.
Over the border in Switzerland, they have just signed a deal worth £20m, with a further £4m coming from domestic channels. Swisscom, the cable company with the rights, has 608,000 subscribers and is the biggest cable operator in Switzerland, giving it similar reach to that of the SPL yet generating 33% more revenue.
In Norway, they have an even better deal, with a contract signed with TV2 Norway worth a reported £44m a year revenue despite viewing figures which are lower than Sky's figures for the SPL. According to a report from TNS-Gallup, the most viewed domestic Norwegian match in 2011 was Lillestrom versus Brann, which attracted 196,000 viewers. As a comparison, a fixture between St Mirren and Hibernian attracted 392,000 viewers on February 20 last year, while the SPL's average viewership on Sky is just shy of 250,000 per match. Even if we discounted all matches with Rangers, the viewership would still be around 180,000 per match.
So, Scotland gets less money than the Norweigans, the Swiss and the same as the Austrians, but on all counts boasts higher viewerships and match attendances. So why is the deal so poor in comparison? There is a suggestion that it is to do with the popularity of the English league, but Norway attracts Premier League viewerships five times those generated by their domestic matches; a similar ratio to Scotland, given that the average English game attracts 1m viewers.
Likewise, Austrian and Swiss football is overshadowed by the Bundesliga, which attracts more viewers than domestic matches – yet they still have deals either similar to or better than the SPL.
Another issue is the perceived lack of competition for SPL rights. Since the collapse of Setanta, Sky have had a monopoly and have, therefore, dictated the figures. Indeed, a Nordiccom report into the current Norwegian deal highlighted the situtation in the UK, saying "if former rivals decide to join forces instead of continuing to compete, this may have dramatic consequences for the competition, and hence also for prices. The fewer broadcasters that originally were present, the closer a reduction can move the market towards a monopsony [one single buyer]. This, in turn, will transfer market power from the sellers to the buyers".
So the above lack of competition maybe explains the current deal being less than those of other European countries, but still cannot explain Doncaster's £3m figure. To put that prediction into perspective again, it would rank Scottish football on par with Hungary, who sell their rights domestically for £2.8m. That league gets 2900 fans per game on average.
Is that all Sky are really offering for a league which would generate viewing figures of 180,000 a game more than Norway, even without Rangers? The Barclays Premier League generates average figures of around 1m for Sky, yet receives £1bn a year in revenue. Even with their monopoly, £3m is a derisory figure. But, assuming the figures are accurate, what alternatives do we have?
There is ESPN, but they appear to be building their interests in alliance with Sky. There is BT vision, who just invested £750m to show 38 Barclays Premier League games a season. With their model, which allows users to watch via mobile devices and the internet as well as conventional TV, this may be the way forward. There is also the long-mooted SPL TV option, modelled on the successful Eredivisie TV platform in the Netherlands.
At £6 per month, or £50 for the season, the platform allows you to watch all the Eredivisie matches live, wherever you are in the world. Just to put this in perspective, if a similar deal was set up in Scotland, 37,500 subscribers would be required worldwide to match Doncaster's figure of £3m. If the numbers without Rangers remained at 180,000 a match, just short of £15m would be generated for the Scottish game, which looks surprisingly similar to what Sky are currently paying.
Is the current deal underpriced? Possibly, but with the lack of competition and the unwillingness of the SPL to take a step into the unknown, it is at least understandable. Could the proposed £3m figure by Doncaster be undervalued? Absolutely, and for that comment alone there should be a vote of no confidence heading in his direction.
Steven Burns runs the A Saint In Asia blog. You can read him at saintinasia.wordpress.com