August saw the dawn of a new era for the Barclays Premier League, as the £1.7bn television deal introduced Setanta alongside Sky Sports, as the official suppliers of live top- flight English football coverage.
Despite this change, the first two weekends of the new season proved to be a ratings success for Sky Sports, as the data from Sports Marketing Surveys illustrates.
Sky Sports flagship 'Super Sunday' broadcast attracted more viewers for both its broadcasts compared to the corresponding programmes from August last year. The 4pm match between Manchester United and Reading on the first weekend was watched by an average of 1.3 million viewers, 17 per cent more than for Chelsea versus Manchester City on the first 'Super Sunday' broadcast from last season.
The second weekend was even more impressive with both matches in Sky Sports 'Super Sunday' double header attracting more viewers than Blackburn Rovers v Chelsea from 2006. Unsurprisingly, audiences are influenced by the teams involved, but it is interesting to note that Liverpool v Chelsea attracted 38 per cent more viewers than for the same match last season.
Setanta can also see their opening broadcasts as an internal success, providing the broadcaster with its top audiences for 2007 across all programmes. Coverage of Newcastle United v Aston Villa evening broadcast on the second Saturday of the season attracted 42 per cent more viewers than for last season's corresponding match between Manchester City and Arsenal, which was broadcast on Sky's now defunct Pay-Per-View channel Premiership Plus.