How TV covers the Premier League
A number of people have asked how Premier League football coverage is divided among the broadcasters. Until this season, any part of any Premier League match you saw anywhere in the world would have been covered either by the BBC or Sky or, between 2001 and 2004, by ITV or Sky. Now the pictures all come from one of three sources: the BBC, Sky or Setanta.
This is how it works: on Premier League weekends, Sky pick two or three live games which are moved to Saturday lunchtime, Sunday at 4pm and, most weekends, to an early afternoon slot on Sunday. Setanta move a live game to Saturday teatime, and on some weekends another to Monday evening, or, as in the case of Boro v Newcastle last weekend, to a Sunday early afternoon slot.
So, most weekends, four games move for live coverage and the broadcaster transmitting the game puts in all the cameras. The other broadcasters then take a feed of that coverage. Mondays excepted, we send commentators for MOTD or MOTD2 to commentate to their pictures. (Just in case anyone still wants to claim that we don't send commentators to games, can I insert a pre-emptive "Oh yes we do!" in here?) So, for those games, we're entirely reliant on another company's match directors and technicians for our pictures. Fortunately, the coverage tends to be uniformly good these days.
This generally leaves six games per weekend. The Premier League now insists on a minimum level of multi-camera coverage at all games. This suits us, because we can provide a more extensive edit of each game than ever we could in the days of single-camera round-ups. It also suits Sky who transmit long edits of all the games on Football First, foreign broadcasters who can choose a 3pm Saturday game to show live if they so wish, and the various mobile phone outlets, club TV channels and websites which now benefit from better coverage across the board.
Of the six remaining games, the BBC chooses three for our Outside Broadcast cameras. Last Saturday, for example, these went to Arsenal v Man City, Chelsea v Pompey and Villa v Fulham. Sky then cover the remaining three games - West Ham, Derby and Bolton last Saturday. As a Match of the Day editor, this is all good news, because you can draw up a running order based on the football rather than where you have OBs.
When Match of the Day first covered the Premiership, two matches were picked in advance for full coverage and became by definition the two long edits that evening. Everything else went in the round-up, and furthermore, we had no access to Sky's Sunday games until the following week. Going back to the 1970s when I first followed football, Match of the Day picked two games and had no access to anything else. If they picked two 0-0 draws, it was just tough luck. For those of who weren't allowed to stay up past our bedtimes and watch the show go out between Starsky and Hutch and Parkinson, there was no Sunday morning repeat and no home recording.
Our weekly dose of football came courtesy of ITV's regional football highlights on a Sunday afternoon. Growing up in the North East, this meant "Shoot" on Tyne-Tees and a long edit of whichever of Newcastle, Sunderland or Boro (or once a season, Darlington or Hartlepool) had been at home, and a very short clip of wherever Brian Moore had been for LWT (almost always West Ham, it seemed) or occasionally, wherever Hugh Johns had been in the Midlands.
The sight of a Tyne-Tees Outside Broadcast van at Ayresome Park meant we could see it all back the next day; the sight of a BBC Outside Broadcast van would have been greeted like a visit from Elvis. The BBC archives for the whole of the mid-70s when Boro stormed into the top flight, then finished 7th, appear to contain one goal by John Craggs in a 1-1 draw at Villa Park. And we won what is now the Championship by a record 15 points (when it was only two points for a win) that 1973-4 season
Admittedly, the split with the Premier League means the BBC isn't contractually able to show the other divisions these days, but every goal from every division is covered and shown by Sky and ITV who can (and, yes, I know about the technical problems at Wolves last Saturday, before anyone gets in touch...) You can even watch a lot of Conference football live now, as well as most major European leagues and the UEFA competitions.
You may not always like what we, and the other TV football broadcasters, do with the wealth of footage now generated, but purely in terms of what's available, to quote Harold MacMillan: "You've never had it so good."!