BBC

Sky Sports Takes Advice From ‘ESPN 8: The Ocho’ To Fend Off BT Sport Competition

As football clubs across the country prepare for the start of the new season, the nation’s broadcasters have also been making moves for their own battle for supremacy, which takes place not only in our living rooms but on our mobile devices too.

Last year saw arguably the most significant development in UK sports television since the launch of Sky Sports itself, with BT Sport’s arrival in the market. Unlike Setanta or ESPN, BT has the ambition and the money to mount a serious long-term challenge to Sky’s supremacy.

Sky’s big innovation for 2014-15 is the launch of Sky Sports 5, a football-only channel that brings it perilously close to ESPN 8 ‘The Ocho’, the satirical channel featured in the movie Dodgeball that boasted “if it’s almost a sport, we’ve got it here.”

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Goal Line Technology, Social Media And Online Streaming Take Centre Stage At World Cup 2014

On the eve of the 2014 World Cup final between Germany and Argentina, FIFA president Sepp Blatter declared this year’s event to be “the first truly mobile and social world cup.” It’s easy to disagree with many of Blatter’s statements but not this one of them.

In fact the only grounds for debate was that this wasn’t just the most social World Cup of all time, it was almost the most technological, with innovations on and off the pitch helping referees, players and fans.

Goal-line technology made its debut, 4K and streaming made huge strides and fans were more involved than ever before thanks to unprecedented channels of communication.

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Technology Aids Wimbledon In Quest To Be The Most Prestigious Grand Slam Of All

So in the end there was no fairy-tale ending for Roger Federer at this year’s Wimbledon. The perennial crowd favourite lost an epic final in five sets to Novak Djokovic, having saved championship point in the fourth. Djokovic was as graceful in victory as Federer was in defeat, hoping that he will have one more shot at Wimbledon glory before his illustrious career – arguably the greatest ever – comes to an end.

It was a different kind of final to the one that preceded it, when, on a tension-filled day on Centre Court, Andy Murray ended Britain’s 77 year wait for a British male winner – but not before subjecting us to one last excruciating game before the famous drought was ended.

But walking around the All-England Club (AELTC) last week, it was though nothing had changed from last year. The overpriced Pimm’s and Strawberries and Cream were still served, the queues still formed in Wimbledon Park and Henman Hill, the physical manifestation of the modern British obsession with finding a  homegrown Wimbledon champion, was as busy as ever.

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Cricket Commentaries Show Importance Of BBC Local Radio

Kent Cricket St Lawrences Canterbury

Yesterday, BBC Sport announced that it had retained all of its live radio commentary rights to the Premier League for next three seasons. Holding onto its flagship commentaries would have been a priority for Radio 5 live, given that it has seen its stranglehold loosened in recent years by Talksport and Absolute Radio.

I have been critical of BBC Sports’ television strategy in recent years, especially with regards to its public service obligations, but the quality of its radio coverage is second to none in the UK. The Premier League does not need the exposure, but football fans deserve the quality programming that 5 live produces.

However equally important is the news that BBC Local Radio will broadcast every ball of every county cricket game played in England this season, with all commentaries available online and some transmitted nationally on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra.

Promoting local sport

With no domestic free-to-air television coverage, cricket needs local radio to promote the country game, keeping fans informed and encouraging them to come along to matches. Without this network, the fortunes of the counties would suffer and this would ultimately undermine county cricket’s ultimate goal of supporting a competitive English national team.

It is unlikely that a commercial broadcaster would have the resources or the motive to do what the BBC is doing with its local radio stations. The benefits are so obvious that it begs the question as to why the corporation was so keen to slash budgets last year, much to the concern of sports like cricket and rugby league.

Lords Media Centre Cricket

The proposed cuts were universally unpopular among listeners and some were eventually scrapped, although there was still a reduction in sports programming and a knock-on effect on local sport. For example, the London Rugby League show was cancelled on BBC London 94.9 – something that will hamper the Rugby Football League’s attempts to spread the game in the capital.

Channel 6 the future?

The Non-League Football Show could have been another casualty, but was saved and is now broadcast nationally on BBC Radio 5 live – again, a perfect example of public service broadcasting.

Premier League football and Test Match Special are incredibly important programmes that the BBC should fight tooth and nail to keep, but its influence over local sport and less popular events should not be underestimated.

Hopefully Ofcom’s plans for a network of ‘channel 6’ stations on Freeview will eventually be able to provide a television outlet for local sports shows (although live sport is unlikely), but until then the BBC is a vital platform and its budget should be protected

RIP Ceefax Page 301: The End Of An Era

Last night, Northern Ireland became the final region of the UK to complete the digital switchover, bringing to an end the 76 year history of analogue television in this country.

Most will have barely noticed the milestone, having already entered the digital age. Digital television brings a greater choice of channels and superior signal quality, but many will mourn the passing of Ceefax. The original real time news service will be fondly remembered by sports fans, who hold a special place in their hearts for it.

As a football-obsessed eight year-old, I used the text service religiously as I had never used the Internet and Sky Sports News was still a year away from launching. In 1997, my thirst for football news was quenched with Match Magazine, the newspaper that my dad brought back from London each evening and Ceefax.

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Should the BBC keep the Football League Show?

It’s fair to say that the BBC’s weekly Football League highlights round-up, the imaginatively titled Football League Show (FLS), has experienced a mixed reaction from football fans since its inception in August 2009, but it is generally a vast improvement over the much-maligned and inconveniently scheduled ITV equivalent, The Championship.

However its absence from our screens over the Christmas period has ultimately led to speculation that the programme could be scrapped permanently when the BBC’s contract expires at the end of the season.

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