Head of UEFA Michel Platini is no doubt cackling to himself this morning. He is probably the happiest person in the world that UK football fans have been screwed over apart from Jake Humphrey. This morning they announced that after a long and profitable business relationship with Sky Sports and ITV, UEFA have walked away and gone with the biggest bidder, the company who know they’ve paid money that they can’t afford to get the rights to broadcast all Champions League and Europa League matches from August 2015 to May 2018.
BT Sport are paying £299m a year for the right, which is around £100m more than Sky Sports bid and have made the splash that they were determined to make. They’ve made it clear what their strategy is, they want to lose money in the hope that a few years of losses will lead to profit down the line when everyone is getting their broadband via BT.
It is a massive gamble but they have worked out one thing – that live sport is the only television that people will still watch live. Other shows are often recorded and watched at a later date, but sport is still watched live. Coupled with BT’s approach to dominate the broadband market then they see it as a big long-term goal to couple the two. With two million subscribers already it sounds like a strong start for the company, but the truth is the majority of them are not paying for the BT Sport channels, instead they are getting them for free. This is not exactly great.
However this blog is about why it is sticking it to the UK football fan. With now no games live on terrestrial TV (although BT Sport do say they’ll put some games on FTA television) it means that the biggest European club competition now doesn’t have a home on FTA television. With the Europa League also out and the Premier League having never had a home on FTA television then football fans will be forced into paying for a pay TV if they want to watch any club football.
If you want to watch all the games though, you are now firmly pushed into getting not one, but two pay TV subscriptions. Now as it stands I already pay for both Sky Sports and BT Sport because I get my fibre optic broadband through Sky. So my bill just to watch all the sport available is already through the roof. After tax, national insurance, rent and food, my next largest monthly outgoing is on my TV/Broadband packages. I spend more each month on TV than I do on electricity and gas and we all know how much they cost these days!
If I didn’t have to pay extra to watch all the sport then I’d easily be able to have a fortnight in a 5* resort every year. The thing is I don’t mind per se paying extra for sport but I don’t like paying extra twice, that galls, it really does. At the moment though BT Sport is I think £9.99 a month, so its basically the cost of a Chinese take-away every month but they’ll have to put up prices to cover the insane cost of this deal surely? So will they double the cost?
At what point do I just say enough is enough? Will Sky scale down their charges when they don’t have Champions League football? So many questions and none of them I expect to be answered positively. At this point I think all we can hope for is some football tips to help pay for all the extra money we’ll be shelling out to watch all the live games we want.
The biggest issue though is BT Sport’s coverage has been shocking so far. Genuinely awful. They have spent so much money and all they’ve got right is Ian Darke is the commentary box. Darke is a fantastic commentator and is without a doubt a first-class lead. Darke, along with Martin Tyler are clearly a notch above anyone else commentating on football in the United Kingdom at the moment. So adding Darke’s voice to the Champions League isn’t a problem. However they’ve partnered Michael Owen will him so far and Owen just isn’t up to it. They have Steve McManaman in the studio twiddling his thumbs whilst Owen is alongside Darke, why? McManaman and Darke built up an excellent pairing at ESPN (USA) and would be a first class pairing for BT Sport.
Next up is the Mark Halsey situation. I like Mark, I like him a lot, but he’s really not comfortable in the gig that he currently has. Having a former referee in the booth isn’t a bad idea. It works well in the USA on the NFL but Halsey has no confidence. BT will surely look at this and maybe having him in the studio for Half-Time and Full-time analysis would work better.
Then we get to Jake Humphrey. A man so self-assured that he makes Russell Brand look like a shy cherry-blossom when he approaches women. Jake has that ‘matey’ approach to TV presenting, which isn’t bad per se, the problem is you get the feeling that it doesn’t work when the experts don’t seem to like him. When David Ginola called him a wanker behind his back after Jake delivered a cheap shot about his trousers then it said everything.
‘This is how we do it on BT Sport’ exclaims Jake at every possible moment, what Jake? You mean you do is a lot worse and in a far more unprofessional manner than Sky, ITV or even the BBC? I know the BBC is often castigated for being a bit matey, but at least you know they all actually get along. ON BT Sport is just seems like Jake is hanging out with the popular kids and wanting to be their mates and they just laugh and snigger behind his back. Jake should watch how well Ed Chamberlain fronts Sky’s Sunday and Monday coverage, he knows Gary and Jamie are the stars of the show and lets them talk and doesn’t jump in with nonsense. It allows the show to flow and Jake needs to learn this.
So basically the fans are getting screwed by having to pay out yet more money to watch European competitions from after next season but they will also be forced to watch inferior coverage of the Champions League. Sky’s coverage is first-rate and BT Sport will get nowhere near that in terms of quality. Only Ian Darke as lead play-by-play will not see a big reduction in quality and unless BT make a radical decision by giving James Richardson the gig as the front man, football fans will be forced to groan through Jake’s candor far more than anyone should have to.
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