Media Lifeline: ITV sport

ITV's blooper-filled World Cup coverage has at least livened up an otherwise dull tournament.

September 1985: ITV's aspirations in televised sport had been perfectly encapsulated in World Of Sport, the network's answer to the BBC's Grandstand - except that it was basically a showcase for ropey wrestling bouts between fat Northern men camping it up in tights. Although it runs on Saturday afternoons for 20 years, it is eventually humanely put down (like one of the participants in the "ITV Seven" donkey races it covers) in 1985.

May 2002: Having been humiliated by Sky in the early satellite television wars, ITV had long been spoiling for revenge - with sport, notably football, as the key battleground. But its farcical digital terrestrial broadcasting venture, known latterly as ITV Digital, almost destroys a whole tier of English football - when it goes under, it owes Championship clubs hundreds of millions that they had already spent on players, thrusting many of them towards bankruptcy.

May 2004: Although ITV had won the Premiership highlights package beginning in 2001, The Premiership (as the ITV show is called) is awful, containing less than half-an-hour's action in a 70-minute show - and it's scheduled into a late slot. It lasts only three seasons.

February 2009: Yet bouncebackability is clearly in the network's DNA, as is shown when it wins the rights to broadcast live FA Cup matches from the start of the 2008-9 season. The wisdom or otherwise of this arrangement is brought into question during the tense Everton vs Liverpool fourth-round replay. As the match enters its final minutes, ITV cuts away to a Tic Tac ad, just in time to miss a last-gasp winning goal by Everton's Dan Gosling.

June 2010: And ITV seems determined to have an accident-prone World Cup too. It cuts the end off the epic new Nike spot; has to sack its pundit Robbie Earle for unprofessional conduct; and cuts to a break in its HD live coverage just in time to miss an England goal.

Fast forward ...

August 2014: But with ITV continuing a long-term strategy to reinvent itself as a pay-TV broadcaster, sport stays at the top of the agenda - and the network successfully bids to win one of the Premier League packages of live games. To showcase this, it launches a channel, ITV World of Sport, which will seek to fuse together the genres of comedy and sport. For instance, live match action will be fronted by a team led by Russell Brand.

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