TV Sport: Bombardment of mediocrity turns television's boom to bust

The medium, someone said, is the message. And the message that filters through the medium of television is clear. In ever-increasing numbers, sports fans are pressing the off button. Enough is enough.

The medium, someone said, is the message. And the message that filters through the medium of television is clear. In ever-increasing numbers, sports fans are pressing the off button. Enough is enough.

According to Neil Wilson, of the Daily Mail, who once performed with distinction on these pages, there is startling evidence to suggest that the sports boom on television is over. Last weekend, he reported, viewing figures for the Grand National, one of the BBC's few remaining showpiece events, remained in a downward spiral from the peak audience of 16.7m in 1994: only 1.3m switched on to watch France complete the Six Nations Grand Slam by overwhelming Ireland in Paris: in a World Cup year, football is faring no better on the box. Ratings for Champions' League games have dipped below expectations. The golden egg of Premiership matches on Sky shows cracks.

No wonder. Week in, week out, the armchair audience comes under a bombardment of sports events, many of stultifying mediocrity. The answer is to switch off, and many do. Not so long ago, when asked how he felt about the glut of football on television, a prominent manager replied that it did not occupy much of his time because "there is only so much football I can take". Clearly, he is not alone in this.

Towards the end of last year, after watching Lennox Lewis demolish Hasim Rahman to regain three versions of the heavyweight championship, I fell into conversation with some other grizzled veterans of this dubious trade about developments in the televising of American sport that appeared to carry a warning for broadcasters on this side of the Atlantic. For example, having built its financial model on television money – Fox, ABC, CBS and ESPN will contribute a combined $2.47bn this year, deals that were overpriced when they were made in 1998 – the National Football League expected to hear the networks asking for relief. The collapse of ITV Digital has brought this trend home to us.

Sport as we know it today is television's baby. Television created a new breed of fan, the fan who may seldom see a big game live because of the advance sell-outs. They miss out on the madding crowd, the panorama of the stadium, the bracing spectacle and the bad hot dogs, but they see the game in a dimension not possible from the stands. They see the instant replays, the slow-motion re-runs, split screens, playercams, and other electronic razzle-dazzle that isolate the bad and beautiful from the clamour. But there are dues to be paid. Ideally, an announcing team should have a play-by-play man who can supplement the picture with a clear narrative in unhysterical English, and an analyst who can interpret what is happening in plain English. Both of them would add levity when appropriate, and keep an eye out for the mad doings of people on and off the field. They wouldn't belabour you with statistics and theory, and they would know when to shut up and let the action tell the story. Perhaps we will live to hear it.

In accordance with sponsorship hype, the television mentality bangs the drum for the product by apologising for it and patronising the viewer at every turn, retreating behind jargon, cliché and myth, showing no inclination to conduct a searching interview. Former players in the role of broadcasters see so many "awesome" and "fantastic" things happening in sport that the English language is frequently debased to a duffle bag of clichés and adjectives. Worse, some of the jocks have wrought havoc in the land by spreading the mystique of strategy, game plans, formations and goodness knows what else.

Across the past decade big-time sport has become an explosive growth industry. That's been fine for many investors and performers, but "growth industry" is not a buzz phrase for fun. All it suggests is hard-knuckled grabs for every pound anywhere in the country. Now television may be realising that the bubble has burst. Too much sport, translating into too many dull events, a glut in the marketplace and the challenge of entertainment options. Unquestionably, televised sport is losing its popularity. It is high time the truth was delivered. Truth is a majority have concluded that the experience is overrated.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
film
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...

SThree: The benefits of Recruitment at SThree...

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

Recruitment Genius: BID Manager

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With more than half the world's populati...

Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - CIPD - Buxton

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - CIPD - Buxton A highly...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?