Because, if it succeeds, this level of investment and clout could fundamentally alter the sporting landscape in the manner of Sky in the early 1990s. Unlike its ill-starred predecessors, ITV Digital, Setanta and ESPN, BT has the money (£1bn has been put behind this project), technology and brand recognition to take on the Murdoch Empire. And any increase in choice for the viewer can only be a good thing.
Three channels: BT Sport 1 & 2, plus EPSN. (In sad news for insomniac fans of moustachioed men in tight shorts and crew-cut men with big shoulderpads, ESPN Classic and ESPN America have bitten the dust.) In sporting terms, there are two biggies: 38 Premier League football games (and, with 18 ‘first pick’ games ahead of Sky, it won’t just be the dross, the opening tie of Liverpool v Stoke notwithstanding), and, impressively, all 69 live Premiership Rugby matches.
There’s also women’s football and tennis, 30 Scottish Premier League matches, 25 FA Cup games and a grab-bag of global football coverage. The pickings do get slimmer, though, with moto GP (from 2014) and the ever-popular Ultimate Fighting Championship filling out the schedules. Don’t laugh – you could catch the next Alex Reid.
Ah. Well, you can’t argue with the likes of Ian Darke, Darren Fletcher and Alastair Eykyn behind the mikes, reliable old hands all. In front of camera, it’s a dicier affair. There’s the good (Mr Smooth James Richardson, big solid Lawrence Dallaglio, the sainted Clare Balding doing a chat show, Dannys Baker and Kelly), the bad (Tim bloody Lovejoy), the untested (Anne Keothavong, David James, Rio Ferdinand – no, it’s not a wind-up) and the terminally boring (seriously – Jake Humphrey, Steve McManaman, Owen Hargreaves and Michael Owen?). At least with the latter, any Richard Keys and Andy Gray-style ‘banter’ is a distant prospect.
If you subscribe to BT Broadband or its pay TV service, not a penny – and you can watch on your mobile, tablet or laptop too. If you want to add it to your Sky package, it’s another £12 a month (plus £3 a month for HD, unless you sign up before August 1).
BT Sport launches at 6pm on Thursday August 1. For more information, see www.btsport.com/sport
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