The Football Association (FA) is exploring whether to drop the 3pm Saturday TV blackout for FA Cup matches as streaming service platforms wait in the wings to acquire broadcast rights.
The Daily Mail revealed that the English football body will map out ideas for matches of the oldest cup competition in football to be televised from 2025 onwards, as an attempt to boost the competitions revenue stream and value.
Negotiations for the next round of TV rights for the FA Cup will commence this summer for the season 2025-26. The BBC and ITV currently own the rights to broadcast FA Cup matches in a pre-existing four-year contract, with each broadcaster televising four matches each round.
The BBC has been a long-standing broadcaster of the FA Cup, televising the competition and its final at Wembley Stadium for the first time in 1938, with ITV gaining broadcast rights in 1960.
A 3pm blackout removal would likely perk the interest of large streaming services such as DAZN and Viaplay, who have already shown interest in acquiring rights to showcase English Football League (EFL) games on their platforms.
As part of DAZN’s bid for the EFL, the platform underlined that it is looking to remove the ‘mediaeval’ blackout, enabling them to broadcast 1671 matches from the league and provide NFL-style highlights packages.
Sky Sports’ current broadcasting rights deal with the EFL runs out at the end of the 2023-24 season and the English football body has put out feelers to streaming services for its TV rights in a potential £200m deal, which would also put an end to the 3pm blackout.
The Premier League, however, has voiced its support for the 3pm blackout, a sentiment backed by broadcasters Sky Sports and BT Sport, believing that televising around a half of Premier League matches maintains its already astronomical value.
Supporters of the 3pm blackout have cited risks to lower attendance figures and lower gate revenues for smaller clubs who rely on it the most.
On the other hand, a 3pm blackout removal of FA Cup games would likely be welcomed by lower league clubs as it would lead to an increase in prize and appearance money, as well as being less disruptive as one may fear, as FA Cup fixtures take place on just five weekends from the first round onwards.
The 3pm Saturday blackout for English football matches has been set in place since the 1960s as an attempt to maintain attendance figures as well as support clubs’ matchday gate revenue, which significantly supports lower league clubs and their financial situations.
However, under the new potential proposals, the FA are reportedly keen on the idea of broadcasting all FA Cup matches for the 2024-25 season and beyond, which would effectively put an end to the 3pm blackout for the tournament.
According to the Daily Mail report, the FA believe selling broadcast rights for the cup tournament will generate more revenue which will be passed down to the competing clubs and invested further into the grassroots game.