MOTD viewing figures on the up
So it's been a great year of football, and we've also recorded some excellent figures for our TV flagship programme Match Of The Day. An interesting statistic from Sunday is that the peak live audience for Wigan Athletic v Manchester United was 1.8m, whereas the MOTD high was 4.7m. And that fits into the overall story of the season with the highlights show routinely getting 2 or even 3 times the viewing figures for individual live matches.
We have a Fulham fan in the office so for the last few weeks we've been living the Great Escape, and I was out in the sunshine plugged in to the 5 Live commentaries on Sunday afternoon as we zapped from Wigan to Chelsea and then picked up the relegation battle.
Match of the Day in its Saturday version increased its average audience in 2007-08 from 3.3m to 3.7m - quite an achievement for our team when terrestrial TV audiences generally are going down and when there's more televised football than ever before. We reckon that's the best figure since ITV played the highlights in peak time in 2001. MOTD2 went up from 1.9m to 2.3m.
So what has caused the resurgence of highlights? Partly, obviously, it's because it's been a closely-fought season. Partly I think it's a factor of so many live games, split between Sky and Setanta, that the attraction of being able to watch all the games in one place has become stronger.
None of this is to question the case for live football, and we're open about the fact that - although our overall sports rights portfolio has massively strengthened in the past year - we will seek to bring more live football to the BBC in the long term. We're also pleased, despite the sniping from the usual suspects, that our Football League portfolio comes on stream in a year's time.
But someone said, a bit cruelly and maybe after a visit to Derby, that some games are better at nine minutes than 90 - and the fact is there's a great place for both. We reckon that at least 28 million people watched Premier League football on the BBC last season, so it's still the place where most people see the best of the action - and it can only be good for the game that pay TV and free-to-air can thrive together.