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
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
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.

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test