If…with Mike Atherton

Has anyone else listened and watched Sky’s advertisement for their all-consuming coverage this summer? It’s fronted (for want of a better word, as it’s a voice over) by Mike Atherton. Now then. Athers is many things, but a voice-over artiste he is not. He sounds about as enthused as a prisoner who’s just been told that, yes, today he is allowed one hour of sunlight as opposed to the usual 45 minutes.

Athers recites Rudyard Kipling’s If and it’s as sickly and inappropriate as it sounds. (not Athers’ fault of course, but Sky’s ferocious marketers)

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

Incidentally I came across some viewing figures on the Beeb yesterday which make make interesting reading. I put them on CI…will dig them out later.

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 AM on Sky

I nervously anticipate Sky’s Cricket AM Saturday morning show, which starts this weekend. It could be a winner, or a right winner. Am I at all swayed by the notion of an ex Blue Peter presenter fronting the programme? (sorry, but I am! “Here’s one I made earlier” and all that)

BBC secure radio rights

The BBC have secured radio rights in India for four years, which is a welcome relief to those who enjoy Test Match Special. The deal allows them to broadcast England’s current tour of India, and other international teams who visit, over the next four years. Sky, meanwhile, are being shafted by Nimbus, who paid an astonishing amount of money (over $600m) for exclusive rights to broadcast cricket on TV in India.

Restless natives at MCC

The egg’n’bacon crowd are not a happy bunch of campers, and Donald Trelford has penned a rebel’s manifesto.

I often wondered why the MCC gave up running British cricket, and it turns out they were forced to do so by the government of the day, in the interests of openness and transparency. Surveying England’s cricket fortunes since 1968, you would have to suggest it was a bad move even before the ECB sold out the British cricket fan for the Sky shilling.

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)

England’s tour of Pakistan on Vodafone

If you like watching TV on a screen about an inch-square, whose battery runs out quicker than anything, and you’re a cricket fan, you might like this:

In order to attract customers to the service Sky is giving all Vodafone Live 3G customers exclusive live coverage of the England cricket team’s tour to Pakistan, starting with the first test in Multan on 12 November. Sky also claims that it will offer both breaking news and sports headlines to Vodafone’s 3G customer base

[Via email – thanks JB]

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.

The BBC and football’s intrusion on our summer of cricket

The BBC, who now must be regretting their decision not to fight for the TV rights of cricket in Britain, published an interesting piece on football’s intrusion on our summer of Ashes fun. The Beeb are a non-commercial organisation, despite taxing us each year for the privledge of watching TV, yet their fondness of Football has always irked me somewhat. BBC Radio Five Live is an excellent station, but the dominance Football has had on our airwaves has been depressing for a cricket fan…until this summer! It has been encouraging to see the Beeb spend so much time on cricket on the radio; even their newsreaders seem to have been taught the rules of the game.

They no longer look surprised when uttering “England ended with a score of four HUNDRED and fourty four runs today.” Massive emphasis on HUNDRED. It’s a cricket score, BBC people – they tend to get into the hundreds you know.

Also noteworthy today was the news that the BBC are to broadcast their first cricket match on TV for six years. Before you get excited, it’s only available to the lucky Scots, for their one-day game against the mighty Australians. The Telegraph have more on this.

Are the BBC regretting handing over the rights to Channel 4 (in 1999), and now Sky? You bet they are…

Cricket television coverage

It seems live cricket has died on terrestrial TV in Britain, or at least it has a “death date” starting 2006, as I mentioned back in November. Ofcom has agreed BSkyB a 4 year deal, isolating the British public from watching Cricket on the box. At least The Ashes will still be on C4 this year. On a similar note, what is happening about Australia’s coverage of the Ashes?

For those who want/need it, I’ll be providing DVD highlights of the Ashes after each Test (just need a blank DVD or 3 and for you to pay the postage). More on that later in the year.