Monday, 31 December 2012

Considering the Previously Unthinkable

Remember how years ago I considered Pardon The Interruption and Around The Horn to be shows I couldn't miss? For that matter, do you remember how barely a few months ago I praised Dan Le Batard is Highly Questionable? Those days seem like a long time ago, because unfortunately the channel responsible for showing them in the UK, ESPN America, is becoming an unwatchable mess.

Consider the following:
  • Pardon The Interruption, possibly my favourite programme on television and for me the quickest way to catch up on the biggest American sports stories, is now effectively a glorified radio show. The highlights which still accompany the show in America are nowhere to be seen in the UK, apparently due to rights footage restrictions. Sky hold the rights to NFL games, BBC to many Tennis events, and the two share plenty of other events, such as Golf. No rights, no clips, but plenty of Kornheiser and Wilbon referring to clips that we can't see. Sad.
  • Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable relies even more heavily on clips. This appears to be the reason why it is no longer shown at all on ESPN America. Ditto for SportsCenter and SportsNation (the latter is not my cup of tea, but lots of people I know really enjoyed it).
  • Even a programme which should be immune from this nonsense isn't safe. College Gameday only covers College Football, which as far as I know is only nearly exclusively shown on ESPN America. However when Landon Donovan appeared as a guest on the show the feed was cut as the American broadcast was about to show highlights of Donovan's goal against Algeria from the 2010 World Cup.
All these rights issues are pedantic and annoying, and not just in regard to ESPN America. I don't usually subscribe to Sky Sports because for the lack of spare time I have I really cannot justify the cost, however I usually pick it up for the NFL playoffs or if Palace are due to be covered. Not anymore. I've only really watched Golf's majors for years, but the way it carved up PTI in the summer has led me to loathe it. Andy Murray may have had a magical run to the Wimbledon final, but I kept thinking about how it was destroying PTI and frankly it made me bitter and disinterested.

With my favourite programmes being destroyed what on earth am I therefore forking out £13 a month for? Frankly I don't need it, and I struggle to justify it. So with that in mind once the final College Gameday of the season is shown on January 7th I will probably cancel my subscription, at the very least until March Madness. However as that is shown online for free I will probably be quite safe to leave it until the Baseball season begins, and by that point I may have joined my Fantasy Baseball colleagues who have promoted MLB.tv on the basis of the quality it provides for many years now.

(And no, it doesn't help when filler time is taken up with things like the American Hockey League and College Volleyball, low quality events in front of sparse and disinterested audiences. Ugh.)

The sad part of this for me is that all this takes to resolve this is rights of highlights to be shown on a few programmes. There obviously aren't problems with this in America, so why does it take place here? According to what I could find the problem appears to be with the UK version of ESPN America also being shown in Scandinavia. I'm not sure why that affects the UK and in particular highlights being edited out of shows. Goodness only knows what would happen if they allowed highlights to be shown in regard to these events and consequently make me interested in them? I'm not proud to admit it, but a few years ago I even took a partial interest in American Idol because of how keenly Tony Kornheiser argued about who should leave each week.

Showing highlights of different events effectively works as free advertising. A clip of something amazing on one of these shows might lead to me actually watching it on a different channel. Whoever makes these decisions, you may think you're doing yourselves a favour by denying these rights, but all it does it get my back up and the remote control handed over to my wife.
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