What now for sport's television 'Crown Jewels'
I’ve been in two minds about the recent experiment of online broadcasting that limited the live audience for England’s World Cup qualifier in Ukraine last weekend.
There was outrage at the confirmation that the qualifier was only going to be available online, even though it’s probably the shape of things to come.
In this age of the internet and iPhones, it’s only a matter of time before all televisions are web-connected and mobiles are linked in at the same standard and resolution quality.
With Sky Sports fans paying upwards of £40 a month to watch football and other sports events, is it any wonder that we finally had a game available solely online?
Is it really that much different to pay-per-view sports events on Sky such as boxing fights that happen in the small hours?
It’s all very well football fans being outraged at the online-only option, and the limit on the number of viewers to just 1m to prevent the service from crashing is less than ideal, but that will no doubt change.
But it provokes the wider question of why certain ‘crown jewel’ sports events are not available on terrestrial television.
The online or iPhone option is great for the traveller or the fan who wants to watch events in the park or somewhere else where television is not an option.
But I’m delighted to see that the next Ashes cricket series in the UK is now likely to be on free-to-air television.
Even those of us who are not cricket addicts can remember the 2005 Ashes series with nostalgia and recall just where we were when England won the final Test to win the little urn back again.
The same cannot be said of this year’s Ashes, which failed to capture the imagination in quite the same way because it was only available on subscription-based Sky.
There is no doubt that Sky has played a massive role in updating and inspiring sports coverage, not to mention the investment in sports at all levels due to their generous coverage fees.
But if events such as the FA Cup, England football qualifiers and tournaments, Wimbledon, the Olympics and the Six Nations, for instance, remain on terrestrial television, it will have so many positive effects.
More people will be inspired by sport, participating and watching local teams and providing a boost to economies as well as potential reduction to their wastelines and the community benefits sport is known to provide.
And why not follow the FA Cup model, where the final is screened both on terrestrial TV AND Sky, with fans given the choice of who to watch.
Would everyone switch off Sky because there is a free option? I don’t think so. And if it makes them raise their game by improving their own coverage even more, it can only be of benefit both for viewers and the sports who are seeking new followers.
The High Definition element, analysis with a wide array of top experts and all-round presentation that Sky offers is not often equalled by terrestrial TV.
But the option of choosing between Sky or terrestrial TV would benefit everyone and ensure sport does not fall further down the list of priorities where funding is concerned.