TV times

Free-to-view television can benefit everyone

TV times - broadcasting rights and viewership

You may have noticed that the Rugby World Cup is on television at the moment, although since it is being played in Japan some of the kick-off times are little anti-social. Also, because it’s being played in Japan, typhoons can get in the way, which has done for the England v France game tomorrow.

But what you will have noticed if you have been watching is that the rugby is being shown on ITV. No need for a pay-TV subscription to enjoy it. Coincidentally, I saw a piece in the newspapers yesterday about ITV being likely to try to get Champions League football back again when the bidding for the 2021-4 seasons has been concluded. Presently BT has exclusive rights to show the Champions League here but, it was noted in The Times, “the lack of a terrestrial media partner has meant that UEFA has had to accept much lower public exposure in the UK”. I don’t expect you to shed any tears for football’s authorities but this is an illustration that this cuts both ways: free-to-view television can benefit everyone.

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A little over a couple of weeks ago, the European Tour unveiled a new “modern, fresh logo” as part of a brand revamp “aimed at Driving Golf Further [their capitals, not mine] through new guiding principles of innovation, inclusivity and Globality [again]”. All swell and good, although the overarching message of good news was rather dampened when a week later Rory McIlroy, Europe’s best golfer, said: “I’m honestly sick of coming back to the European Tour, shooting 15 under par and finishing 30th. I don’t think the courses are set up hard enough.”

(I suspect there was a different form of displeasure in France at last week’s announcement of the 2020 Tour schedule. Administrators in Paris had been hugely hacked off that their reward for staging the last Ryder Cup was for the 2019 French Open to be moved from its traditional June/July date to October; to next week in fact. Next year it will be back in July – but up against the WGC/FedEx St Jude Invitational, pretty much guaranteeing it gets no top names.)

I do realise that Keith Pelley, the head of the European Tour, needs the money which Sky pays for its exclusivity in order to fund the purses his players demand. There is no magic wand to wave, and the last I recall the previous Prime Minister insisted there was no magic money tree. (Albeit the new one seems to have located it somewhere.) But Sky did co-operate with Channel 4 in the broadcast of the Cricket World Cup Final in July, enabling the climactic ‘super over’ to garner a cumulative audience of 8 million, even if this was below the 9.6 million peak figure for the men’s Wimbledon Final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, taking place at the same time and being shown on BBC1.

Next year, cricket’s new domestic short-form concept, The Hundred, will have some matches shown live on the BBC. It remains to be seen how that pans out but I do think that golf needs to find a way to do something similar; something more meaningful than a logo redesign.

You can follow Robert Green on Twitter @robrtgreen and enjoy his other blog plus you can read more by him on golf at

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