It has been a bad few weeks for the Sky Sports empire. Hot on the heels of the sexism controversy, comes the first significant threat to Sky's 20-year dominance of the Premier League.
A landmark case taken to the European Court of Justice by a British publican could completely undermine Sky's deal with the Premier League after an advocate general advised the court on Thursday that "territorial exclusivity agreements relating to the transmission of football matches are contrary to EU law".
The publican, Karen Murphy from Portsmouth, is seeking the right to show matches in her pub which are broadcast via satellite by overseas providers. Apart from this being potentially cheaper for publicans, and for home subscribers too, it would also mean a huge increase in the number of live games available -- 138 Premier League games are shown live each season in the UK, compared to 380 in mainland Europe.
Should Murphy's case succeed, and the advocate general's intervention would appear to increase the odds in her favour, the knock-on effect for Premier League clubs could be drastic. In the first instance, if they cannot make exclusivity deals with individual broadcasters, then the £3.5bn yielded from the last rights sale could be significantly lower next time around. (Sky alone paid £1.6bn to the Premier League for its current three-year deal.)
Sky's Premier League coverage is also a significant selling point for its subscription-based packages and should cheaper alternatives become more readily available, it would face the double blow of a diluted product and falling subscriptions.
On Friday, the Premier League issued a strongly worded defence of its position, and reaffirmed its intention to continue fighting the case, but it will be a nervy wait for the court's pronouncement.
Sunday Indo Sport