A Promising Start for BT Sport, Despite the Figures
As a sports fan, I was disappointed, but probably not surprised, to read about some more underwhelming viewing figures uncovered for the new BT Sport channels.
Launched to considerable fanfare, the new channels have already served to shake things up across the marketplace (Sky Sports looks very on its game right now) and I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen so far.
For anyone who’s yet to give it a try, Des Kelly’s ‘Life’s a Pitch’ alternative to the 10 o’clock News is worth checking out – stick with it, it grows on you – and fans of James Richardson’s Football Italia show on Channel 4 will be glad to see him back on Sunday evenings, looking across Bundesliga and Ligue 1 action, as well as his Series A homeland.
The fact that BT is finding viewers hard to come by – headline stats included 8,000 viewers for a recent Clare Balding Show and 13,000 viewers for Danny Baker and Danny Kelly – should be no surprise, because sports fans are already being so well served by Sky (dedicated Sky Ashes channel this summer – how good was that?)
The truth is that we don’t actually NEED another dedicated sports channel, but given the option – absolutely, bring it on! The more sport the better, I say and a little competition never hurt anyone.
I recently attended the Sports Marketing 360 conference, at which Simon Green, Head of BT Sport, was a speaker.
He was at pains to explain that within their relatively short lead time to launch, they concentrated the majority of their efforts on making sure the product was right. They wanted to be a credible sports broadcaster from Day 1, and make sure that no balls were dropped. To that end, Michael Owen’s droning commentary and Ginola-gate aside, they have been successful.
Where they suffered as a result was in their promotional planning. Whilst the broad-stroke paid-for awareness has been striking, the attention afforded to speaking directly and in detail to sports fans has been lacking in comparison. Understandably, they have shouted loudly about their live sports, having had to pay a significant premium to secure those rights, but in this respect they are still a poor relation to Sky.
Where they are missing a trick perhaps is by not shouting loudly enough about their ‘sports feature’ programming. When you compare them like-for-like, you could make a strong case that BT has the edge on Sky here.
Having seen ITV Sport, Setanta and ESPN bring their challenge to Sky, I think BT Sport’s line-up is the best yet. There is plenty of good content to enjoy, delivered by a quality cast of presenters.
Patience will be key. If they continue to be good, sports fans will find it and share what they see, and gradually numbers will increase – at least I, for one, hope so.