Terrestrial Sport on TV

April 13, 2017, 3:29 PM UTC

The final whistle may soon be blown on live sport being shown on terrestrial television, but does it matter? Has live sport on terrestrial TV run its race, or is there life in the old dog yet…

Beyond, what are known as ‘Category A’ sporting events (the Olympics, the Football World Cup and the Grand National as examples), which must, by law, be shown on terrestrial TV, there has been an overwhelming trend of broadcasting switching away from terrestrial TV and over to subscription/ pay only TV. Take most of English football’s domestic cup competitions, Golf’s Ryder Cup and even Rugby’s premier European competition, the Six Nations, is under threat this year as the BBC and ITV’s television rights expire. But does it matter that live sport, on terrestrial TV, is a dwindling resource?

There still seems to be a significant appetite for live sport, beyond ‘Category A sporting events’, on terrestrial TV in the UK. In 2015, almost 10 million tuned into watch England and France go head-to-head in the Six Nations on the BBC, and even more recently seven million turned on their televisions in the hope that Lincoln City could stage one of the greatest upsets that the FA cup had ever seen, as they took on Arsenal in March. This is an appetite which subscription/ pay TV only cannot match, take the Barclay’s Premier League, for example, often dubbed as the ‘most competitive league in the world’, yet it could only manage a high of 3.1 million viewers for its most watched game in 2015. So the demand for live sport on terrestrial TV certainly seems to be there, but the supply… less, and less, so.

One of the reasons that demand is so strong is because live sport has, an unparalleled, potential to inspire. Take the famous 2005 Ashes series, of which every ball was shown live on Channel 4 in the UK, for example. In the aftermath of that test series, hailed by some as ‘the greatest ever’, there was a record number of children taking up cricket in schools and at clubs - and yet just a couple of years later BSkyB had secured the rights to full coverage of the most eagerly watched test series in world cricket. With that click of a button, viewing access was instantly denied to those who couldn’t afford a Sky Sports subscription, and take up to cricket amongst children began to fall, as many were no longer able to watch their heroes in white, and has never really recovered since.

But most importantly, is it important to you that live sport be shown on terrestrial TV? Or should those who want to watch it, do so on subscription/ pay only TV…?