Peter Owen Talks

Tuesday, 1 October 2002, 0:01
8 mins read

Debate has raged on much this week about the deal between the football league clubs and FLPTV, the company that hosts the official web-sites and owns the rights to some of the content so we thought we would take 5 minutes (or longer!) to see exactly what is going on.

The debate that this issue has caused has made a great read over the past few weeks on the various sites and we spoke to Peter Owen at the Vetch to try and see what the deal was to start with and why the changes, that caused the commotion, came about.

What was the original deal with FLPTV for payments to the club for the official site?

It was a complex arrangement with no guaranteed earnings at any time for the club. FLPTV instigated what they called Minimum Contract Requirements (MCR) which were things like 2 news stories per day, match reports within a certain time of the final whistle, one featured player per week etc and if you did this then the club would earn £2000 per month regardless of the quality/success of the site. On top of that, there was an earnings system, based on hits, return users, newsletter registrations and commercial revenue through betting/shopping sites. Earnings was not unlimited – there was a cap placed by FLPTV of £5 million per period and after the MCR payments, the club received a % of what was left.

And what has changed in recent weeks?

There are two main reasons for change. 1. As you are aware, the backers of this project are NTL. They own 50% of FLPTV, the Football League the other 50% – NTL bring the finance to the table, the FL bring a product and a ready made customer (fan) base. FLPTV are committed long term to this project, and despite already committing millions of pounds to the project, have continued to do so. For example, last week’s downtime was because FLPTV had invested in a brand new infrastructure and as a result have moved servers etc, to brand new offices.

It is no secret that NTL is in financial difficulty across the Atlantic. With this in mind, FLPTV executives approached the FL in May regarding restructuring, in order to distance the organisation from NTL so that they could protect the company and protect their investment, should NTL bite the dust (which is rated highly unlikely). What they have done, is ensure that should the worst happen to NTL, the knock-on effect for the websites will be minimal. I would have thought that this is good business practice on their behalf, rather than cause for criticism, as they are looking ahead and identifying potential problems, rather than being knocked for six several months down the line.

2. I have already mentioned the MCR payments, which as far as FLPTV are concerned have turned out to be a double edged sword. I keep on stressing that it is a long term investment from FLPTV, and as such needs full support from all clubs involved, to drive the business forward by increasing revenue via the sites.

You will no doubt agree (hopefully!) that I work my socks off to ensure a quality service for supporters via the Official Site, which takes a lot of effort and commitment, in the hope that I will be rewarded by increased revenue for Swansea City and that is the case at most of the clubs. You know that if you log on to regularly, there will be constant updates of information, facts, interviews, reports and more. However, not all clubs have taken that attitude, and there are a number (Darlington and Carlisle are two examples) where at times it’s difficult to even realise that they’ve played a game in the last couple of weeks, They have been happy to accept £24k from the MCR, but do little else to drive the business forward.

Obviously, this is of no benefit to FLPTV long term – why should they be bankrolling an operation where the partners aren’t willing to put the work in at their end? At the end of the day, it would lead to money running out, that much is plain to see! To that end, they have now withdrawn the MCR, so other than the subsidised webmasters salary, there are no longer any guaranteed payments. Also, they have removed the £5million limit. The situation now is, as it should be in business, if your site performs you earn money! It’s as simple as that. The same criteria is in place, and in addition there is also revenue from Swans World now as well.

The revenue split is 80/20 in the clubs favour, until £35million has been earned, and then it changes to a straight 50/50. The reason for the higher payment up front is a way of softening the initial ‘blow’ of no MCR payments.However, early indications are that we will earn at least the same amount this period as last, so there is no ‘blow’ in reality.

Surely these new guidelines are best for everyone? It’s encouraging all clubs to operate their sites as a viable business concern, and for those who do well they now find that their earning potential has increased vastly because it is no longer a % of the League as a whole, it is purely related to their own performance. An example of how that effects us here, is that we are constantly in the top 15 for spending on the betting site – previously our direct income, because of the £5m ceiling, was in relation to how everyone else performed. Now, it really is the case that the potential for us there is unlimited!

Do you have any figures of the number of people that have signed up for ‘Anyteam World’ via

As of September 14th, a month after launch there were 139 Swans fans signed up to Swans World. Our target for the first three months was 100, so we are understandably delighted.

Can you remind me what is on offer via Swansworld?

Forgive me for what sounds like marketing spiel, but SwansWorld is a revolutionary new service which has never been done before. The main selling points are access to highlights from every Swansea City game this season and last, and the chance to listen online to audio interviews from the club. At present, there is no terrestrial highlights deal agreed, so there is no soccer sunday or Nationwide League extra anymore. Sky can show highlights, but they have made a business decision that it isn’t cost effective to send cameras to every ground, so there is no guarantee that we’ll be on their round-up (indeed, four weekends this season so far they’ve not been at our game) so it is the only place you are guaranteed to see Swans highlights.

We also broadcast full commentary of every Swans match live through Swans World courtesy of Radio Wales. Big deal you may say, “I can listen to Swansea Sound”, but the reality is they don’t broadcast commentary online, so unless you live in Swansea you can’t listen to it. On top of that, if you listen to radio wales, they spread commentary through all three League clubs, and there is also rugby and a lot more to fit into their show. At Swans World, the commentary is full 90 minutes, uninterrupted.The Match Live zone, where you listen to commentary also has a rolling news service, bringing you all the latest from every game currently being played, team news, goals, bookings etc.

In addition, there is a searchable archive available, so as well as just watching a particular match, you can search for all James Thomas’s goals for example, or all Paul Reid’s yellow cards.Not bad for £24.99!

It’s even better value that that, when you multiply all the above by 72! Because all the highlights and commentaries from every club in the Nationwide League is available as well.

(good marketing spiel there Peter as you said!!!!)

Talking to Peter Owen about this venture you certainly get the gist that he firmly believes in it and, in fairness, if it makes money for the club from something that could easily make them no money at all surely it all has to be a good think? Peter’s answer to the first question (what was the deal) certainlyt struck a chord. I have been producing web-sites for Rivals for over 2 years and have seen the ‘goalposts’ move on a number of occasions with regard to what I can earn. I view it as a way of life and two years ago people certainly believed that internet advertising and partnerships (which is what companies like FLPTV and Rivals thrive one) could make much more money then in reality they do. This is certainly why Rivals have cut the earning potential of their publishers and why, I would guess, FLPTV have done the same. Or have they?

As for ‘Swans World’ Personally, I will not subscribe to it. But then again I am in the right catchment area to see goals if I want to. I can see more games but for those abroad I think it is a good thing. I take on board the arguments that ‘it was for free last season’ and we all know that it was but then again in the early 1990s top flight football was free in this country. From what I have heard the quality of the clips has also improved vastly and these things will always come at a cost. As the internet revolves and becomes more sophisticated then things will start to cost money and I would not blame any business for looking to exploit those opportunities.

The re-structuring of the deal could well set alarm bells ringing with regards a similar situation regards ITV digital but as Peter said to us “Firstly, that will never be the case with FLPTV, as you cannot budget for something when you don’t know what you’re getting! Secondly, we are not owed anything anyway-all payments due to the clubs through this deal have been made” If that is the case then there should be no worries and any extra money that this service brings into the club is extra income on top of what we have budgeted for?

Most of us will realise that Peter Owen is paid from the coffers at FLPTV and not Swansea City so it could be argued that he has a vested interest in the service and hence why he promotes it so heavily. But we must also remember that Peter has been a Swans fan for a long time and I am sure that he would also speak up if he believed it bad for the football club. I remember sitting at my PC last October (you know the day) talking to Peter about the sackings at the club as he knew he wasn’t able to run anything on the official site. His number one concern was the club and that is something that I will remember.

If you want an honest opinion about FLPTV from me then I think there is a benefit to the club. Anything that brings money in deserves our support. Yes the deal has been restructured but that is a way of life and I am all for a deal that rewards those that put in the effort and not those that are just happy to accept bare minimum.

As for the pay per view sections. I fully expect more web-sites to head down this route in years to come and a personal opinion suggests that in 20 years time we will be talking about the “good old days” when things were free on the internet! For me, it’s a way of life and I don’t see the point in moaning long and hard about it. Providing the club is not budgeting for income from it, which Peter says is not the case, then every penny helps?

I’d like to thank Peter for taking the time out to answer the questions and just remind everyone that un-official sites are the best 😉

Images courtesy of Getty Images, Athena Picture Agency and Swansea City Football Club.

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