British Broadcasting Corporation has planned to increase its live sports coverage by up to 1,000 hours a year in a bid to evade the competition threat from deep-pocketed pay television networks. The national broadcaster has been facing stiff competition from the pay television market players of UK and to counter the same BBC has announced its new sports output strategy.
The increase in the free-to-air sport will be seen through the BBC Sport website and BBC iPlayer. The early rounds of the FA Cup will be streamed live as well as more matches from Wimbledon and women’s football Super League fixtures.
The BBC has been forced to evolve its sporting rights strategy after years of dwindling live coverage owing to cost-saving measures. Over the past decade, the corporation has given up half of the Six Nations, which is now shared with ITV, lost the Open golf to Sky and a host of other rights.
Cricket though is making its return to BBC TV for the first time in more than 20 years. According to the director general of BBC, Tony Hall, “This shows how we’re reinventing the BBC for a new generation. We’re giving people more of what they love by working in partnership with the sports industry and making the most of digital technology.”
Olympic sports including hockey, swimming and basketball could be the biggest beneficiaries, with users receiving alerts when their favourite sports are due to feature online. According to BBC insiders, it would be a “personalized” service and help raise the profile of minority sports alongside making the most of the events the BBC has existing rights to.
The BBC has tied down the rights to the Olympic Games, Wimbledon, World Cup and FA Cup on long-term deals. The extra coverage will take advantage of low-cost streaming technology the BBC has developed since London 2012. The BBC will work with sporting bodies to share knowledge of production, technical and editorial standards.
The All-England Lawn Tennis Club, the International Tennis Federation, British Swimming and British Basketball have given it their backing and the plan is to provide live coverage from more than 30 additional sports or sporting events every year.
Hall admitted the BBC has been forced to evolve as a result of the budget for live sport being slashed. “As we have shown time and time again, we will not stand still,” he said. “Not if we want to meet the changing demands of sports fans, not if we want to remain relevant in the media’s most competitive marketplace.
“While we’re privileged to be funded by the licence fee, it’s no secret we don’t have the same deep pockets as those we must now compete against but we have unique qualities that are essential for those sports who want to ensure their events are available to – and able to inspire – the widest possible audience.”