Julian Clover attends the launch of what was described as the biggest launch in UK sports TV for 20 years.
It’s been a while since we brought Wolfe’s law of inverse channel launches into play. For those who need reminding it’s that the success of the launch party that is in direct disproportion to the longevity of the channel.
Strictly speaking BT Sport wasn’t actually holding a launch party, but an all-encompassing gathering that had everyone from the trade press through to seasoned sports writers and, I am told, nine analysts.
We had all been bussed into the BT Studios into the former Olympic Park that appeared to be less finished than the last time I came. At least Danny Boyle was in charge that day.
BT hadn’t skimped on the organisation either. After the main presentation there were breakout groups so individuals could focus in on their area of interest. If you got lost, which was entirely possible, there were desks you could go to for help.
The event was hosted by former Radio Norfolk star Jake Humphrey, and Clare Balding, the unique face of BT Sport, the BBC, and Channel 4.
Balding’s star rose as a result of her involvement in both Olympic and Paralympic coverage in 2012. It is a clear part of BT’s strategy to use Balding and assorted England footballers as torchbearers for the new channel.
When Setanta launched its Premier League coverage the pretender used Des Lynham, who had recently stepped down from fronting ITV’s football coverage, as a means to promote itself to middle England. Like Balding, Lynham presented a chat show.
BT Sport comes where Setanta and ESPN failed. It is too easy to paint this as a taking on Sky scenario and BT’s unique pricing structure is arguably more of a threat to Sky’s broadband business than it is to Sky Sports. The incumbent has five out of the seven Premier League packages and six premium channels as opposed to BT’s three.
Neither is BT trying to tell people to take BT Vision – or maybe BT YouView as was referenced several times during the presentations – if you’re a BT Broadband subscriber you can add to your package by whatever means suit and this includes Sky Digital.
If you get your broadband somewhere else, you can always pay the market price of £15. But here’s the rub. Even as a BT customer you still need to pay a £3 supplement to receive the HD version – a fee waived if you get in before the August launch – nothing like setting a precedent.