Matt’s Monologue: Sport on Terrestrial TV

BT Sport recently signed a new contract to continue showing European Football on British TV.

The deal runs up to 2021, an extension of three years, and is worth a staggering £1.2bn. Not bad for the clubs involved!

From 2018, fans will be able to watch a “double header” of Champions League fixtures, as matches kick off at 6pm and 8pm, much like the current Europa League format.

In one sense, that is great for the viewers. The audience who can afford to or want to shell out for satellite television get twice as much action for their money.

But another part of the deal is that BT Sport will broadcast all the highlights from the Champions League as well.

So, for the first time, there will be no free to air package on ITV during midweek.

Some people may scoff at that. Perhaps a short round up of the matches after the news is not all that important. But it should be to the people who are deciding who gets these broadcasting rights.

Watching live sport is a great way of getting people into the game. Youngsters can be inspired by the success they see from stars playing and performing on the biggest of stages.

For that reason, Match of the Day is brilliant. Every Sunday morning, kids can wake up and watch the latest outrageous goal by Eden Hazard, or a brilliant save by David De Gea, and they can try and emulate it.

What motivation do they have to become the next Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, though, if they cannot actually watch them in action?

Opportunities to see high class sport on terrestrial TV are becoming more and more infrequent.

The BBC has recently lost the rights to The Open, bought up by Sky, meaning golf’s flagship event cannot even be viewed live without paying a subscription fee.

The same goes for half of Formula One races, three of tennis’ Grand Slams, Super League and a plethora of other sports.

From a personal point of view, the one that bugs me the most is cricket.

In 2005, arguably the best England side of our generation, with the swashbuckling style of Kevin Pietersen, the big hitting and charisma of Andrew Flintoff and brutal bowling attack of Steve Harmison, Simon Jones and Matthew Hoggard won the Ashes.

It was the first time they had beaten Australia in 18 years, and the whole country embraced it as they watched on Channel 4. Indeed, it is estimated that over 22m people watched at least 30 minutes of cricket that summer.

Unfortunately, that wonderful, nail biting series was the last one on terrestrial TV. Sky have had the rights ever since.

Now do not get me wrong, I think their coverage is fantastic, arguably better than Channel 4, and they pay good money for it.

But it is surely no coincidence that figures from 2014 show the number of people playing the sport is dwindling, down from 908,000 to just 844,000 in twelve months.

People need to be able to watch live sport to be inspired. Cricket shows that. Role models are essential. So do not take them away.

Let’s hope football does not continue heading in that direction, because chasing the money will come back to bite you in the long term.


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