Competitive balance and TV audience: An empirical analysis on the Italian Serie A
This paper investigates the behaviour of the “couch potato” audience in regards to the Italian Football League - Serie A - during the 2008/09 season. Using data from 380 matches, we considered a collection of variables suitable to influence the share of TV audience of satellite television. According to the standard prescriptions of sports economics literature and assessing peculiarities of Italian context, we estimated the “Football on TV’s” demand by an OLS regression model. Rating the dependent variable of TV audience by the share registered in each match, we introduced a set of independent variables in order to approximate match quality, the programme schedule placement, the follow-up of the involved teams and their rank. As other theoretical and empirical investigations have focused on Spanish and English championships, our attention concentrates particularly on the relationship between the closeness of the game and the television audience. In the regression model, uncertainty of outcome has been measured extracting information from the Italian fixed odds betting market. We found that all the theoretical expected relationships have been confirmed by the econometric analysis. In spite of the statistical significance of the outcome uncertainty on share, the estimation points out that more then 90% of variability concerning TV audience has been explained net of uncertainty factors and that the impact of a closest context on dependent variable is marginal. The overestimation of the role of match uncertainty on TV audience could support the opinion of top team’s management opposing the return to the collective bargaining of TV rights starting from next season, 2010/11, fixed by the law 9/2008 of Italian Parliament. In football context the competitive balance should then be considered a “meritorius good”, far from market assessment.