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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

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
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy