SBD/April 27, 2012/Media

BBC Dir Of Sports Acknowledges New Reality With Rivals For Live Rights

BBC Dir of Sport Barbara Slater acknowledged that the broadcaster "must face up to a 'new reality' in the market for live rights against rivals with deep pockets," according to Owen Gibson of the GUARDIAN. The net must also "hit back at critics who claim the net is low on morale and showing signs of giving up the battle." R&A CEO Peter Dawson hinted that the BBC was "lagging behind rivals such as Sky and ESPN when it came to technical innovation." In the past 12 months BBC Sport has "lost its remaining horse racing ... renegotiated its Formula One deal to become a junior partner to Sky, lost 43% of its staff in moving the department north to Salford and slashed its overall rights budget by a fifth." Former BBC Managing Dir Paul Fox "recently claimed the corporation was giving up on sport and suggested the London Olympics might be the last it covered." But Slater said that she was "bullish about the future and suggested the picture would look very different after a summer of major sporting events including the Games, which will see the launch of 24 dedicated channels, Wimbledon and Euro 2012." She said the range and quality of coverage across all platforms would underline the net's ambition "to be the home of crown jewels sporting events."

EBB & FLOW: Slater added that the "loss of racing rights, which has dismayed some commentators, was part of the 'ebb and flow' of sports rights." Slater: "Sometimes rights go and sometimes we acquire rights. There is no question this is complex. We are in a new reality in a very dynamic market." Slater "hinted that the shared model that sees Sky show every F1 race live on a dedicated channel, and four days of live coverage of the US Masters to the BBC's two would be increasingly favoured by rights owners." Gibson writes the BBC will "have to pick its battles" as Wimbledon was "prioritised over Formula One in the recent cost cutting process, for example." Slater also "denied that the morale at BBC Sport had slumped." She said that the renewal of the Premier League highlights for '13-16 would be an "absolute priority." Slater: "Match of the Day is an absolutely iconic and treasured part of our output." She added the net's coverage of the London Games would "move the bar" with "unprecedented range and choice that will sweep audiences up" (GUARDIAN, 4/26).
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