TV Times

Football on TV has become a talking point in the past week or so, not least because Sky have reported a slump in viewing figures this season.

The 19 per cent drop was announced last week and certainly raised a few eyebrows – but if you think about it, the clues were there. Special offers aplenty being advertised, their on-demand services being offered to customers from other suppliers and the massive furore they made over Red Monday, which turned out to be more like Dead Monday.

I’m not a Sky customer anymore. Fittingly, the Virgin Media men were in my house arranging my exit from Sky as David Cameron quit as PM following the EU Referendum result. I didn’t actually leave Sky because of the cost, or the TV, but because of their god awful broadband service, and even worse customer service, which included one braindead operator advising me that my wifi would suddenly stop being disgraceful if I moved the router into the middle of the room, and another asking me if the washing machine may be affecting it.

With Virgin, I still have Sky and I also have the added bonus of BT Sport as well. But despite this plethora of Premier League live TV options, I don’t think I’ve watched a full game all season. Part of that is down to my own circumstances, and the fact that as I’ve got older, I’ve not felt the interest I once had in professional football, but at the same time, it’s down to the product.

Super Sunday last week comprised of Middlesbrough v Watford and Southampton v Burnley. No disrespect to any of those clubs, but, well, there’s nothing super about that line-up in the slightest. Then again, 24 hours later we had Manchester United’s trip to Liverpool, the fabled Red Monday, which turned out to be even bloody worse.

The excellent Football 365 summed it up pretty well, and I think the points I made about why England are so crap also ring true here. Entertainment isn’t the aim of the game anymore – not losing is. Jose Mourinho got dog’s abuse for how he set up his United side at Anfield, but in the current climate, that has to be seen as a good result for United.

Gary Neville was also on form with his comments about a picture of a section of Liverpool fans taking pictures of the Manchester United boss. Sometimes you just wonder if the money has gone into the game and ripped the heart of it. Liverpool v United was always a massive game when I was growing up, passion in the stands and on the pitch. Nowadays, it’s just not the same.

The last TV deal was mammoth. It works out at around £113,000 a minute. When I posted this Tweet, I got some flak because of the teams I mentioned, but, jeez, I wasn’t wrong, was I?

It’s not good value for Sky and it’s not good value for the customers paying £100 a month either. That’s a lot of money for a lot of people, and all the time there is a sub-standard product being served up, that’s going to be the case.

The fact there are two TV deals is madness as well. I get the need for competition, of course, but the only people who lose out are the fans. When it was just Sky, it was a lot more manageable than it has been since you needed two subscriptions to watch all the football. The same has happened with cricket too – BT Sport are showing the next Ashes – and it’s always the customer who loses out.

It’s a never-ending cycle though. The money goes into the game, the passion goes out of it. Is the bubble going to burst? Ever? I don’t know.

The other thing I was going to mention was El Clasico. A game that until, what, 15 years ago, no-one in England really gave two hoots about. But now everyone cares, especially when it was announced that the first one of the season won’t be shown on British TV because it kicks off at 3pm (our time) on a Saturday. Another blow for Sky…

But it flags up an old rule which causes much consternation. No live football can be shown in this country at 3pm on a Saturday – the traditional time that most matches still start at.

There were some excellent points made in the debate around this – and the other issue of Sky’s dwindling viewing audiences – not least by this Liverpool fan (and I don’t like to agree with Liverpool fans at the best of times) who I assume means “streaming”.

As someone who has watched a lot of lower-league football in my life and a load of non-league in the past three years, it’s an issue I find interesting. I genuinely don’t think in this day and age, it would be such a big deal. The modern way of social media and smartphones means that goals and highlights can be seen in an instant. I have Match of the Day series linked out of habit – in truth, it’s something to delete later in the week. If I want to see a goal, I can watch it on my phone, or on Sky Sports News. When I do watch MOTD, I only watch the games. I barely bother with the dull interviews, and never with the punditry.

And that’s another thing – the level of punditry in this country is at an all-time low. All these people are getting slated for their dull views, but still the likes of Owen and Savage get work. I’ve done a few bits of radio summarising in the past year or so and I enjoy it, I think I’m not boring and I certainly don’t just state the bloody obvious at times as so many do.

But, hey, I’m just a journalist, what do I know?!

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