View From the Sofa: Performances phoned in from the evil scientist's lair


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The Independent Football

There are few things which better distil the futility of existence and the unending presence of the cold, steely grip of death on your shoulder than being put on hold by your broadband provider.

Many will have felt exactly this way in the rush to try to sign up for BT Sport before the start of the Premier League season. After all, the new provider was proudly showing the very first game of the 2013-14 campaign. With a different format, more pundits and a bigger studio than that pesky Sky Sports mob.

Which was all very well. But tales of spending hours on hold listening to Edvard Greig's Peer Gynt before clutching the remote while delving through system menu after system menu at the behest of helpful BT assistants were rife. But, as they have told us all summer, it was all worth it because you'd be getting all that Premier League booty for free.

Unless, of course you were a long-time BT broadband customer who had been happy with your tariff and hadn't bothered to upgrade to their so-called "essentials" package. In which case it was still free, as long as you paid an extra fiver a month.

But once you had jumped through a series of hoops of progressive difficulty, just before lunch on Saturday, you would have been treated to no fewer than four pundits. Four of them. In a massive studio. And enough graphics to placate the most die-hard Generation Y gamer.

And that studio. BT Sport has shunned the familiar Sky format of squeezing their pundits into a corner of a ground, as they do for Super Sunday. Instead the broadcaster has a swanky, hangar-like facility in east London and, by golly, is BT intent on showing it off.

Jake Humphrey, the football anchor, was joined at a long desk in the middle of BT's capacious room with Owen Hargreaves, Steve McManaman and Tony Pulis for the opening game of the season, Liverpool v Stoke. The quartet looked like they had been parachuted into a disused evil scientist's lair from a science fiction film.

That illusion was shattered as soon as Humphrey started lobbing questions at half-time. Because then it became a little disjointed and shouty. Simple maths can explain: a 15-minute break, with four talking heads, makes for less than four minutes per body; not enough time to bring forward and develop an idea, especially if the views are as elementary as McManaman's. It is a good job there was only one goal in the game. There was a swag of graphics, in a pleasing-on-the-eye retro style, to back up the match footage, but as with any flashy sprite and whirlygig-filled sequences, it did not add much to the coverage.

Sky had its own gadgets and pundits to trumpet – as a lengthy email to Independent Towers with "NEW" in capital letters plastered all over it attested – and it was right. And the new policy looks like Sky has to delve to a whole new level of detail.

Ed Chamberlain and Glenn Hoddle spoke from inside the away dressing room at Stamford Bridge before introducing Geoff Shreeves, who was parked outside the Hull City team hotel. Yes, like a well-dressed stalker, outside the bleeding hotel on a Sunday morning.

Thankfully he wasn't waiting in vain; Steve Bruce had agreed to be interviewed. Even so, it was a little weird. What next? Pre-match quotes from players eating breakfast? A quick chat while Ian Holloway negotiates the A23 lane changes on the way to Selhurst Park? It might be something for BT to ponder. If its customers ever get off the phone.

Premier League Live/Super Sunday BT Sport/Sky Sports 1