BBC claw back lost ground

So, the BBC are going to broadcast highlights of the Ashes this winter – an interesting development as it appears to have come from nowhere. Sky, who were awarded the rights from the ECB almost exactly 12 months ago (earning the English board a reported £200m) – a decision which caused the ECB to hide under the table, with just their greens for comfort in the Anderson shelter. The doodle-bug passed by, though.

Initially I was angry at the ECB – angry at Sky, too. But it’s not Sky’s fault they have the money to beat off the competition; it’s also the apathy, or disinterest of certain other broadcasters, which ended free-to-air cricket. I wonder now if the BBC are starting to regret it.

At the BBC’s Sports Editor’s blog, the director of BBC Sport, Roger Mosey says:

Now, before anyone says it: yes, we’re talking today about highlights and not live cricket on TV. The question of live cricket returning to the BBC is something we’re keeping under review for the future when the contracts next become available.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but “…something we’re keeping under review for the future” is either a typo or suggests the Beeb are almost certainly going to bid for the rights in 2009. When I first read it, I thought Roger said “keeping under wraps” and it still smacks of that.

A criticism, though. With the greatest respect and understanding of the arduous task a TV scheduler must have, the decision to air the highlights a mere couple of hours before the next day’s play is ridiculous. It’s almost not worth having them at all. If I was just a fan and not writing about the game, I’d still sign up to Sky in spite of the BBC’s highlights gesture.

I remain a fan of the Beeb though. Their website is outstanding; they’ve grasped Web 2.0 and are breaking new ground each year. It’s just a shame that they spend more money on makeover shows like What Donkeys Shouldn’t Wear At Christmas rather than what the public really want: live sport.

Anyway, it’s very much a moot point and outdated too. Sky have it, so get over it. They’re ploughing a lot of money into the English game, too.

Cricket on Channel Five

Cricket on Five
So, the first Test is upon us in a matter of days. This time tomorrow, Jon Lewis will be even less knowingly underbowled (probably); Sky will be wheeling out their trucks and TV monitors (and waking up Bob Willis from his slumber; “over rates. over rates. always the slow over rates”) and, more interestingly, Channel Five will become only the third terrestrial TV station in the UK to show cricket highlights.

Pleasingly, they’ve chosen a good spot – 7.15 pm. As good as Channel 4′s coverage was, they rather shot themselves in the foot with their highlights which were, frankly, dreadful. Half-an-hour of highlights is all very well, but not when the anchor man – Nicho! – speaks over most of the action. In a moment of particular boredom one day, I timed the actual cricket. There was 2 minutes of intros and over a minute at the end, not to mention the 2/3 minute advert-break in the middle. Worse still, they rarely stuck to one timeslot. It was sometimes on past midnight! Good one – yeah, that’ll draw the viewers in. The pervy freaks looking for soft porn must have got a shock when they heard the less-than-seductive tones of Simon Hughes talking about the lack of a fine leg or worse, pulling a bowler into the confectionary stand (and out again).

Anyway, Five have recruited The Great Nicho (Mark Nicholas), Sir Geoff (Geoff Boycott) and Mr Trucky himself (Simon Hughes). A fine team, that. In fact, so fine, I’m almost inclined to say it’s a shuper team, in honour of Richie Benaud who quite honestly deserves a post all to himself. This is the first summer since the Jurrassic era that Britons won’t have his quiet, understated musings in the background while they make their tea; pick up their shopping; shout at the kids or whatever. Worse still, we don’t get to hear Choo for Chwenty Choo again. Travesty upon travesty. Console yourselves.

Incidentally, don’t try saying his name if your moustache is wet. It has a tendancy to sound like the perfect chav-mobile for a chavette (Bitchy Renault). Stone the crows – why didn’t I think of that before? Someone get me Renault on the phone!

Anyway, the reason for this inane, banal stream of tripe – masquerading as a post – is Five just emailed me to say their site is now live. So go and look at it and tell them how wonderful you think it is, and also tell them what a wonderful blog this is and that you found their site because of the Corridor. And seeing as you’re being so generous, you might as well tell them how great you think I am (you can lie. In fact, please do).

The summer has begun. Incidentally, I went to the dogs on Friday (Wimbledon) – and what a brilliant night out it is. My mate had a bunch of coupons from the Racing Post so not only did we all get in free, we got a free pint to start proceedings and a free £2 bet. I’ll have some of that, oh yes. One of our crowd is particularly keen on the old gambling…not sure how much he won, but it was into the hundreds. Or so he told us…great night though. Masses to drink, masses of laughter, masses of shouting at dogs (and greyhounds) and “what colour’s number 3? what bloody colour is trap 3? Oh nevermind, that’ll be the dog at the back. At the back and on his back!”

Posting will be up on and off for a bit, as mentioned the other day. Scott’s around to keep it fresh and watered.

End of the road (for now) for BSkyB deal

The ECB’s decision to give BSkyB exclusive rights to show all Tests on PPV (pay per view) TV is now, almost certainly, non-overturnable. (I don’t know if that word exists, but it’s a cracker.) The following people participated in today’s Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee:

Mr David Collier, Chief Executive, England and Wales Cricket Board, Mr Richard Bevan, Chief Executive, Professional Cricketers’ Association; Mr Roger Mosey, Director of Sport, BBC, Mr Mark Sharman, Controller of Sport, ITV, Mr Andy Duncan, Chief Executive, Channel 4, Mr Colin Campbell, Director of Legal and Business Affairs, Five, Mr Vic Wakeling, Managing Director, Sky Sports (at approximately 10.30 a.m.); Lord Smith of Finsbury and Lord MacLaurin (at approximately 11.00 a.m.); Mr David Brook, Mr Anthony Wreford, and Mr Stedford Wallen, Keep Cricket Free Campaign (at approximately 11.30 a.m.); Rt Hon Richard Caborn MP, Minister for Sport, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (at approximately 11.50 a.m.).

There’s nothing yet at Hansard (incidentally, my family descend from Luke Hansard – the House’s original printer), but Cricinfo have a report here. In it, Caborn says:

“If you are asking me ‘Can a deal be done?’, I don’t think it can,” Caborn said. “I am making no bones about it. I am supporting the ECB in what it has done.”

2009 is how long we’ll have to wait for it to return to terrestrial – although that’s only the end-date of Sky’s contract which will go up for review again. John Howard wouldn’t put up with it, would he? (Scott or whoever – fill me in on the state of play as regards cricket on TV in Australia)

Cricket’s foot-shooting ability

Can’t help feeling that today, having witnessed the most brilliant celebration of an English side to win the Ashes, the ECB’s decision to sell the rights to B$kyB has been even more foolish than we first suspected. Cricket’s ability to shoot itself in the foot is legendary; maybe this sport really is the new Football…

And today I heard that Tessa Jowell, bless ‘er cotton socks, has hinted that it might return as one of the country’s “listed” sports. These “listed” sports, the “crown jewels” (which has its own, unfortunate and obvious meaning in cricket…) are to be reviewed, said Ms Jowell. Hurrah! All is not lost; cricket will return to terrestrial TV after all.

Err, no. The “review” won’t be until 2009.