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.

Channel 4, Sky and Channel 5

Channel 4 were the first to use Hawk-eye

As was widely reported here in the UK yesterday, Channel 4 have lost the rights to show live cricket in Britain. (not that interesting for non-UK readers…sorry) This has quite massive potential implications on cricket in England and Wales. I don’t know what to think – any comments, feel free to post them. I’d be particularly interested to hear what other countries’ TV rights are (India & Australia in particular – I also remember reading recently that NZ rarely get cricket coverage on TV…true or false?)

Channel 4 bought the rights from the BBC, who lost interest (and couldn’t pay enough) – back then (1998?), opinion was divided as to whether Channel 4 could match the quality of the BBC’s coverage. Channel 4, like the BBC, are “free to air” on terrestrial TV – but unlike the BBC, are a commercial TV station and there was concern that adverts would impede the viewer’s enjoyment of watching live cricket.

All in all, Channel 4 provided excellent coverage with reasonably good commentators (Mark Nicholas, Richie Benaud, Mike Atherton, Boycott, Simon Hughes, Ian Smith, Slater and more) and summarisers. They implemented a number of technological enhancements which have now been used or bought by other stations around the world. They were the first to use Hawk-eye, for example – although none of this technology used was necessarily produced by Channel 4, they had the foresight to use technology to improve the customer’s viewing pleasure.

Most of all – viewers didn’t need to pay extra to watch the cricket. Sky, as most people know, charge exorbitant fees for their services which will dramatically reduce the numbers of armchair cricket fans. Isn’t that how a whole generation were introduced to cricket? By seeing it on TV? I know I was. (Paul Reiffel bowling to England in 1993). Some people are claiming the enourmous fee the ECB have received from Sky (£200m+) will be injected into grass-roots, and will be of massive benefit for the future of English cricket. But, wasn’t it Nasser Hussain who once said that Cricket is entertainment? That the most important people in the game are the spectators and fans?

I’m not anti-Sky – I find their fees very expensive, but they offer undeniable benefits. Digital-quality Television which is unsurpassed in quality (pictorial quality!); they have the majority of radio stations available in digital for no extra cost; regardless of whether you’re a TV-addict or not, there is generally something available to watch that most people would find interesting. I only bought Sky a few years ago and purely to watch the winter tours and rugby, but I must admit to having enjoyed the films and other channels available to me.

It is, as Marcus Trescothick said today, inevitable that Sky would win eventually. The true ramifications won’t be known for a while. Long live TMS, I guess.