Analysis: March of the old men marks Sky's new dawn

FROM ONE angle the defection last week of Jimmy Hill from the BBC to Sky's Sports News channel looks a little like the creation of a television retirement home in the sky.

Hill, the veteran sports pundit and broadcaster, has joined forces with that other television institution, Barry Norman, who moved from the BBC to Sky in June.

The fact that both men are in the autumn of their careers - Hill is 70 and Norman 64 - looks to some as though they have decided to make some serious money before they think about retiring permanently to the celebrity golf circuit.

Others are inclined to view these two defections as the beginning of a much-heralded move of terrestrial institutions to Sky. The argument goes that, just as sport has moved largely to pay television, so eventually the top-rating shows and stars from terrestrial channels will follow the money.

Indeed, it is an old saw of media reporting that every year, when Granada's contract to supply Coronation Street to ITV comes up for renewal, a story appears in the press claiming that the soap is about to move to Sky.

Elisabeth Murdoch, Sky's general manager, has declared her intention to turn Sky 1 into a general entertainment channel to compete with ITV and Channel 5.

In order to do this Murdoch will need her own home-made programmes, because UK audiences are heroically resistant to imported programmes, and because we have a smaller proportion of foreign programmes in peak time than any other equivalent market.

If Ms Murdoch is hunting for home-grown talent, the obvious place to look is terrestrial television. This has prompted fears of spiralling talent inflation, just like the sports rights inflation that was created when Sky got out its sports chequebook.

However, it should be argued that the two swallows, Hill and Norman, do not a Sky summer make.

The satellite broadcaster's profits are down this year because of its funding of new digital channels and its subsidy for set-top decoders. Sky, frankly, does not have the cash to go on a spending spree for something of such unquantifiable value as talent.

And even without its digital commitments, once Sky's spending on sports rights - and that's mainly Premier League football - is taken out of its programme budget, its star-buying powers are dwarfed by BBC1 and ITV.

Instead Sky's programming has followed the pattern of Fox, its sister network in America. Fox has succeeded by buying American football rights and then innovating in the other parts of its schedules. Sitcoms such as The Simpsons and Married with Children upset American moralists when the station first aired, because of their irreverent take on family life. However, what was offensive to some was funny to a highly valuable younger television audience.

In its home-grown programming Sky insists that it is interested in creating new genres rather than in stealing them. With programmes such as Ibiza Uncovered it is fair to say that Sky has been innovative, even if the programmes are of dubious worth.

And in the case of both Hill and Norman there are very specific reasons why the satellite broadcaster has been able to lure them on board. Norman is the bigger purchase, reportedly costing the channel pounds 300,000 a year, because it is intended that he should give a face to Sky's plethora of film offerings on its new digital platforms.

Hill looks like a more opportunistic buy, but he fits the same strategy of getting established faces to help brand-new services.

Hill was available for the simple reason that everything he did for the BBC had been bought up by Sky or ITV: "This was not a decision of mine," he said last week. "The BBC doesn't have any of the programmes I've done for them in the past because the BBC has lost all the contracts for the FA Cup and so on.

"They will miss me around World Cup time, but, apart from that, it won't make much difference to them, me going."

Hill will also be part of Sky's digital services, and undoubtedly there will be further smash-and-grab raids on terrestrial institutions as the broadcaster seeks to fill its hundreds of channels. However, wholesale lifting is not in Sky's plans.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before