In colleges, lecturers instruct students to avoid using Wikipedia as a source for assignments. As a website that allows editing from any registered user, Wikipedia is open to tampering. When searching for the definition of a word though, the website co-founded by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sangar is of some use. According to Wikipedia, advertising “is a form of marketing communication used to persuade an audience to take or continue some action.” Bear that in mind whilst watching BT Sport’s latest attempt to entice viewers to add the channel to their television subscription packages.
The ad stars Jake Humphrey, BT’s Premier League anchor, Michael Owen, Owen Hargreaves, commentator Darren Fletcher and Robbie Savage. Together, they stride across a football pitch clad in suits and black winter jackets. All that is missing in their Resevoir Dogs tribute act is George Baker’s ‘Little Green Bag’ blasting over the PA system in the background. The tagline of the ad is “the cool people to watch football with”, as Michael Owen gives a thumbs up at the camera in a way which is absolutely, definitely, most certainly not cool. If the sole purpose of advertising is to capture new potential costumers, someone in BT’s marketing department failed miserably.
That bizarre and regrettable thirty seconds of film epitomises BT’s Premier League presentation as a whole. In 2012, BT bought the rights to broadcast live matches from the English top flight. For years, many had yearned for some competition to the Sky Goliath. Hope sprang eternal, as BT clearly had the money to invest and create a viable alternative. Any notion that they would offer that was quickly dispelled though. Humphrey has the demeanour of a snotty university student, always searching for an excuse to insinuate “b**nter”. Added in is Robbie Savage, an astonishingly ambiguous media presence. It’s hard the put a finger on what Savage actually offers, apart from mercilously changing opinions and spouting nonsense. Couple that with Michael Owen’s drab, clichéd co-commentary and you get thoroughly disappointed feeling.
BT were presented with an opportunity to deliver a vibrant and original alternative to Sky, but they have failed dismally. Their coverage is a cocktail of bland, stagnant and unimaginative ingredients. The ideal live football presentation? The European Football Show every Sunday, which, as the title suggests, covers Serie A, the Bundesliga and Ligue 1 amongst others. Ironically, this is also a BT show, although it’s unrecognisable to their forced fed antiquated English football coverage.
Presented by legendary football Italia host James Richardson, he is joined every week by expert journalists James Horncastle, Raphael Honigstein and Julien Laurens. The cosmopolitan atmosphere is representative of four guys who have prepared diligently, are capable of analysing a match from any of Europe’s best leagues and point out intricate details as they are watching it. Richardson is the perfect anchor, exuding sophistication and allowing the panelists flourish. Knowledgeable, informative and humorous, the European Football Show is everything a football show on television should be.
The major question must be why every major television network covering the Premier League adopts this approach. Perhaps this is just what the casual football fan wants. Formulaic discussion, outlandish opinions and forced laughter. Maybe the average punter just wants to have a couple of beers and listen to the plethora of bumbling ex-professionals feign interest and repeat pre-prepared lines. Their European coverage is just so much more interesting, yet also so frustrating. You see, there are talented and knowledgeable out there waiting for an opportunity. They are unlikely to figure whilst the usual faces reappear. The differential in presentation only makes sense in the marmite world of the English football media.