MEDIA: Man United’s TV is no substitute for real quality

As a gimmick designed to launch a new channel, Manchester United’s defeat of Juventus last week was up there with the all-time greats. The two-nil stroll against Crystal Palace on Saturday was not quite such an ideal marketing follow-through but at least it served to disguise the image of middle-aged television executives running amok in the streets, wearing their Manchester United scarves. The only problem with the launch was the obvious one of the name of the new channel.

As a gimmick designed to launch a new channel, Manchester United’s

defeat of Juventus last week was up there with the all-time greats. The

two-nil stroll against Crystal Palace on Saturday was not quite such an

ideal marketing follow-through but at least it served to disguise the

image of middle-aged television executives running amok in the streets,

wearing their Manchester United scarves. The only problem with the

launch was the obvious one of the name of the new channel.



Did ’MU’ really score well in focus groups? Surely it had to be the ManU

channel. Any schoolboy would know that. The only rational explanation

for such a bizarre choice is an outbreak of political correctness in

Granadaland.



The announcement that there is going to be an MUTV is unlikely to be as

epoch-making an event as some people appear to think. Very little money

will be invested, there will be hardly any staff and there will be

hardly anything to watch.



In many ways it will therefore be almost the ideal minimalist television

channel of the future. But it is hardly likely to stay unique for

long.



It won’t be long before Leeds, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Newcastle

will all want their own pointless channels that even Live TV will be

able to beat in the ratings. But now at least it is possible to see for

the first time what digital television, and the endless amount of

channel capacity etc can actually be used for.



They will have only one obvious thing in common. They will all be total

crap, promising much more than they can possibly deliver. Apart from

reserve games, and interviews with over-the-moon or sick-as-a-parrot

managers, there will be more opportunities for middle-aged men to make

fools of themselves by covering their beer bellies with garish shiny

shirts - or merchandising opportunities as they will undoubtedly be

called.



These channels are founded on the hope, if not the assumption, that they

can one day become serious pay-per-view channels charging large amounts

of money, and everyone is taking them seriously just in case. This is

very unlikely to happen. Leagues capable of negotiating collective TV

rights will survive a lot longer. In the US, leagues have immunity from

anti-trust legislation and the same should be so in the UK. Important

intellectual property resides in the collective entity known as the

league.



However great the Manchester United team, even they would find it rather

tricky playing themselves. The league also spreads out the revenue to

every team, giving them a chance to win. If a few teams were to become

completely financially dominant and that were to translate into

mind-numbing dominance on the field, football in the UK would be killed

off as a spectator sport. So it is probably good that the MUTV will be

crap and not something that BARB ever need worry about.