MEDIA: PERSPECTIVE; Have buyers been too eager to back the sports boom?

I think it was a famous golfer who, on being congratulated on his good fortune at chipping in from off the green, snapped back: ‘I find that the more I practise, the luckier I get.’

I think it was a famous golfer who, on being congratulated on his good

fortune at chipping in from off the green, snapped back: ‘I find that

the more I practise, the luckier I get.’

You can’t apply quite the same logic to the BBC and Sky, but there is no

doubt that both must be hugging themselves in sheer disbelief at their

luck: the BBC because it has secured the rights to the Rugby League

Challenge Cup. After last Saturday’s thrilling final between St Helens

and Bradford, you get the sense that Rugby League is a coming game. Why,

even the southern editions of the nationals report the big matches now.

Sky, too, must be in clover because, for the second season running,

there is high drama in the finale to the Premier League, whether you are

talking about the championship or relegation. As last year, it could all

be resolved on the final day, which is the sort of shootout that TV

executives must have wet dreams about. As one Sky executive confided to

me: ‘If there are five vital games then we’ll cover them all and cut

between them.’ And with the TV rights bidding for the next contract

coming up, you can see how the football authorities must be seeing cash


Indeed, it seems like the whole country is going sports mad, which is a

bit puzzling given the performance of our national and leading club

teams in the last year (just like Sir James Goldsmith and the anti-

Euros, it doesn’t seem to matter if we can’t beat Johnny Foreigner as

long as we can whip up enough domestic excitement). This week, both the

Sunday Express and the Daily Express chipped in with new weekly sports

supplements and next month, we are promised, Britain will have its very

own sports daily.

So will it work? Well, you can see how the backers convince themselves

that there will be a market. If that isn’t enough, they will say ‘just

look at Italy, where there are four sports dailies’. You get the sense

that here is a runaway bandwagon. One of the attractions, of course, is

that advertisers covet sports fans above most other targets.

This client interest explains why media owners are egged on by ever-

enthusiastic advertisers and media buyers, which leads them to conclude

that, yes, all the advertising support they need will be forthcoming and

they’re all on to a winner.

Indeed, talking of the plethora of new launches in general and sports-

linked media in general, one wonders whether media buyers, who always

have their own agendas, are slightly too keen to assure media owners

that they’ll stick money into this launch or that one. But when push

comes to shove after launch, they make their excuses and drift away for

pastures new.

Such exercise of power without responsibility does nobody any favours

and it might be that a little less flirtatious behaviour on the part of

media buyers might do all of those in the launch business some good.

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