Susanna Dinnage must keep House of Cards stable after becoming the most powerful boss in British sport

james olley
New boss | Susanna Dinnage will succeed Richard Scudamore: PA

If the Premier League is a House of Cards held up by its remorseless television income, Susanna Dinnage is now Claire Underwood staring down the lens declaring, “It’s my turn”.

The final series of the show that established Netflix as a major broadcasting force may have been a disappointing let-down, but streaming services are still the future - and football executives know it.

Amazon Prime’s entrance into the marketplace during the last round of rights-bidding was inevitable. Tech companies with distribution platforms have slowly circled their wagons around the Premier League for years, biding their time to break the duopoly Sky and, most recently, BT Sport have enjoyed.

Departing chief executive Richard Scudamore is a tough act to follow in that regard. Reports of a £5million pay-off funded by the 20 clubs have been greeted with opprobrium in many quarters, especially when fans are being asked to fork out ever-increasing amounts to watch their team, whether live or on television.

Yet, in the rarefied world of high-level business dealings £5m is a fraction of the billions Scudamore has earned the clubs - and there will be some who see it as fair recompense for turning the Premier League into one of Britain’s most successful exports.

The League’s annual TV income when he succeeded Rick Parry in 1999 was £212m annually. The latest figure for domestic revenues is £4.65bn.

Turnover is at £460m from £124m, but those figures underline why sustaining television investment is the key challenge Dinnage faces.

Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck, who led the search for Scudamore’s successor, admitted as much in yesterday’s announcement.

“We had a very strong field, but Susanna was the outstanding choice given her track record in managing complex businesses through transformation and digital disruption,” he said. Dinnage certainly seems well suited, having been global president of Discovery’s Animal Planet channel, where she was not afraid to challenge Sky.

Viewing habits are changing. Figures released by regulatory body Ofcom in July suggested that UK subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon and NOW TV (15.4m) are now greater than traditional pay TV services (15.1m).

TV revenue declined for the first time by 2.7 per cent to £6.4bn, while streaming subscriptions contributed to a 25 per cent growth in audio-visual revenues to £2.3bn.

Younger viewers are now watching more non-broadcast content than regular television.

Sport is insulated from these trends to some extent, given it is what execs call ‘appointment viewing’ - games kick off at a fixed time and the desire to watch live should always outweigh repeats or delays.

Viewing figures for matches stabilised last season after a 14 per cent drop in 2016-17. Sky Sports reported a five per cent recovery but both numbers only account for appointment viewing.

Yet, consumption on devices is going up as technology improves, along with advancements in broadband speed.

The Premier League must continue to move with the times. Clubs are alive to consumers wanting ever more personalised streaming services, which has led to fragmentation in other marketplaces, most notable television series and films.

Brexit forms another complicated layer of the in-tray, amid talk of squad quotas and the possibility of a harsher climate in which to attract investment. Grassroots funding remains a hot topic after the collapse of the FA’s deal to sell Wembley.

But it is television income which underpins it all. Dinnage may not have the blonde bob or the Machiavellian streak of Underwood, but keeping this House of Cards together is her job now.