Broadcasting rights restrictions mean English Premier League followers subscribed to Total Sports Network will have to get used to Maltese-only commentary when watching Saturday’s 4pm games on TV or any game on their mobile device.
And supporters of the lesser teams will have to miss out on a number of games because not all 380 games will be shown live on the network, broadcast by Melita and GO.
The telecommunication rivals have joined forces this season to present eight dedicated stations offering major sporting events to their tens of thousands of subscribers.
Apart from the Premier League, the package includes live games from the Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and European club competitions, starting at €5 per month.
The development has been seen a step forward for consumers, who will no longer have to switch providers every few years at the expiry of broadcasting rights. Also, subscribers may follow the games on the go, through their mobile phones and electronic tablets.
However, soon after the first ball was kicked in the Premier League it turned out that some games would not be broadcast in English but in Maltese.
The decision did not go down well among some followers, while criticism was also levelled at the fact that not all games were being shown live, especially the traditional Saturday 4pm games. In the latter case only one match is being screened live, with the rest either broadcast delayed or not shown at all.
Due to capacity limitations, some matches will not be broadcast
A number of subscribers contacted wondered why TSN was not broadcasting all the games in dual commentary and allowing the viewers to make their own choice.
Complaints were also received from supporters of the lesser teams, saying that their favourite club rarely featured in live games.
However, it turns out that certain decisions are outside the control of GO and Melita, particularly when it comes to the commentary language.
A spokeswoman for the network said the English Premier League did not authorise live commentary in English in any country within the European Economic Area, with the exception of the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
Malta too has been granted an exception, with English commentary available for most live matches, hence the option to choose in those cases.
However, this waiver does not apply to the Saturday 4pm games which must be broadcast in Maltese only, the spokeswoman said.
There are even tighter restrictions on games being shown on mobile phones and tablets – the Premier League does not allow English commentary on such devices.
The TSN spokeswoman also clarified that not all 380 games of England’s top-tier division would be broadcast live, but “at least 205” matches and many others delayed.
“While the aim is to transmit all the matches either live or delayed there will be occasions when, due to capacity limitations, some matches (involving the least followed teams) will not be broadcast,” she said.
In the case of the Serie A, however, TSN confirmed they had the rights to broadcast every single game live. The only exception might be in circumstances when eight important sports events are taking place simultaneously, in which case preference would be given to the “most popular fixtures or events”, the spokeswoman said.
Apart from domestic leagues, TSN also acquired the rights to broadcast the Champions League and Europa League. Most of these games will be transmitted in English but on some occasions there may be a switch to Maltese or Italian, depending on which teams are involved.