There had been some speculation around the interwebs for a while as to who would BT bring in to be the face of their new sport channel ever since they grabbed live EPL games from the start of next season. The general thought was that Gary Lineker was the man for the job as his contract was up with the BBC and his contract is rather large so the Beeb would probably want it off their books but BT have gone in another direction and caught most of us off guard with today’s announcement.
BT today announced that Jake Humphrey had signed on to be the face of their new channel. The 33 year-old had won universal praise for his anchoring of Formula 1 when it returned to the BBC after an absence of 13 years and has quickly risen the pole at the corporation as one of their biggest stars. He came all the way through the BBC from CBBC to be in position to be courted by a rival network and no doubt offered an extremely tasty contract.
Humphrey wrote terrific insightful blogs for BBC Sport and without a doubt one of the most interesting was his one showing an unedited version of his open talkback system showing what he hears in his ears because a broadcast. I can’t embed the video as it’s a BBC Sport one but it is extremely interesting and a good lesson for all those who think presenting a live television show is easy. I’ve not presented live television outside a studio at university but open talkback is really disconcerting and takes ages to get used to but you do.
As for what the BBC will do their F1 coverage whilst not in shambles has some real issues now. They decided to get out of their contract with Bernie Ecclestone which led to Martin Brundle, Ted Kravitz and Natalie Pinkham jumping ship to Sky’s coverage of the sport. Now Jake has left and David Coulthard is out of contract and is widely believed to be of interest to Sky for next season. Does Eddie Jordan really want to carry on doing it without his buddies? Lee McKensie will surely step up to present the coverage and there is no dramatic drop-off there but this is a blow to the BBC of that there is little doubt.
As for BT they get one of the rising talents of live sports presenting in the country. Live top-level football will now be presented by Adrian Chiles, Ed Chamberlain, David Jones and Jake Humphrey across the channels (not including Gary Lineker as it isn’t confirmed he’ll still be around in 2014 at the Beeb) whereas in the recent past it had been Gary Lineker, Des Lynam, Steve Rider and Richard Keys. All of whom had long broadcasting careers behind them (although Gary and Richard’s careers were mostly just in the jobs that they became known for).
This shows both a change in philosophy for broadcasters as they have moved away from the same faces who were mostly of the older generation. Sky’s decision to replace Richard Keys with the two-headed presentation team of David Jones (Saturday’s and midweeks) and Ed Chamberlain (Sunday’s and Monday’s) showed they wanted to keep it in house. The BBC now only have live football at the tournaments and don’t have Lineker signed up as yet although it now seems likely they’ll keep him as going into the 2014 World Cup with Colin Murray as the face of the tournament is rather scary. ESPN had Ray Stubbs who was solid enough but he’ll continue with darts and other presenting duties you’d suspect with them.
This leaves the BT Sport venture as the new challenger to the dominant Sky. BT’s huge victory was getting a share of first pick games over the course of the next football contract. They paid top dollar for them and know it’ll not be easy to make it pay but they are already getting other sports rights to compliment their EPL coverage as last week they got domestic Rugby Union rights. I have no idea if BT will be successful but it’s certainly an interesting opportunity and now is the time to jump ship as London 2012 is over and Jake got to be one of the faces of the BBC’s coverage of that spectacular summer.
In jumping ship he is giving up World Cup presenting duties (as well as possibly fronting the coverage) but that major football tournaments happen once every two years and in this gig he’ll get a live football match most weeks throughout the football season. I’ll probably get BT’s new sport channel when it comes out because I like to watch all the games. Thanks to the EU for making sure I have to pay even more money than I should for this privilege but that is a rant for another day.
This is a good move for Jake I think and a blow to the BBC. It should be pointed out that Jake is set to become a father next spring so leaving the F1 travelling circus and staying in the UK must be a very attractive proposition. The BBC haven’t got anyone what you’d call ready to step up to his all-around role in the sports department. Colin Murray is not a live sport presenter and as it stands he’ll have a significant role to play in Brazil in 2014 and that does worry me. F1 will survive and do fine if DC and EJ stay to backup Lee McKensie but if they leave too then BBC’s award winning coverage will have none of that on air talent either still with the corporation or in the same role and that is quite a dramatic fall from grace in under two years.
Time as they say will tell…