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Four quarters, two channels

Roger Mosey | 11:26 UK time, Thursday, 23 October 2008

We're back with live NFL on Sunday - following the well-received BBC coverage of the Super Bowl earlier this year. It's the second regular season game to be held at Wembley, and the healthy audience we got for the highlights in 2007 has prompted us to take the whole match live this time round. And cheerleaders and fireworks, too, of course.

It marks a first in our use of different BBC channels. It'll start on BBC Two at 5pm - and then at 7pm it will move over to BBC Three for the final hour. I know switching channels isn't universally popular as some earlier blogs have shown, but this is a conscious experiment.

Drew Brees, quarterback, New Orleans Saints

If BBC Three had unlimited hours, the whole match would pretty certainly have been live on Three. But as things stand, BBC Three has to share its digital channel space with CBBC - so there isn't an option of showing live sport on BBC Three during the afternoon or early evening. We therefore decided to launch the coverage on BBC Two, and then switch to Three as soon as it became available. This also has the benefit of allowing BBC Two to stick to its regular Sunday evening schedule.

Now there's a small minority of the population - just more than 10 per cent - who can get BBC Two but not BBC Three. To make sure they're catered for, live coverage from Wembley will be available throughout the match on this website for UK users; there's commentary on 5 Live Sports Extra; and then there'll be highlights on BBC Two just after midnight if you missed the whole thing or if you want to catch the best bits again.

I've been reading some of the message boards - our own 606 and others - and there's a perfectly understandable debate about the use of traditional mixed channels versus dedicated sports services. Our rationale remains a simple one: putting sport onto mainstream channels alongside a range of other programmes brings in considerably bigger audiences. It's sometimes slightly more difficult to navigate, but many more people will watch what we do on BBC Two or BBC Three than on a specialist channel.

Our NFL commitments aren't numerous: just this and the Super Bowl, but we've been encouraged by the reaction to what we've done so far. And this weekend has a good range of other BBC TV sports too: rugby union from Cardiff, racing from Aintree and Chepstow, MotoGP from Valencia, the start of the Rugby League World Cup - and our usual helpings of Match Of The Day. So a little American razzmatazz should, we hope, add some additional sparkle to a dark October night.


  • Comment number 1.

    Could you tell me why this isn't also being shown in HD considering that Sky will also be broadcasting this game but with the option of HD.

  • Comment number 2.

    Can we expect Arlo White and Greg Brady again on 5Live sports xtra? They were excellent last year.

  • Comment number 3.

    Is there any chance of the BBC increasing their NFL output in the next few years? Your coverage is far superior to what FIVE produce.

    Surely to show one of the NFL games that has a 9pm Sunday kick off (our time) on BBC 3 would be possible. I know that SKY hold the rights but surely as long as they still got first choice of game the BBC could show something?

    I've long since argued that NFL is a much bigger interest sport in this country than it is given credit for. The number of people, like me, who have bought a Yahoo Online season ticket this season to watch one game per weekend must show that the interest is there. I'm certain that it would get BBC3 a bigger audience than more reruns of Two Pints of Larger and a Packet of Crisps!!

    I know that there is a large cross section that don't want to watch sport, but the NFL season is so short (September until February) that surely it would not cause too many protests to show 3-4 hours once a week for 20-25 weeks???

  • Comment number 4.

    My doctor became a Chargers fan, like me, solely because SAN DIEGO is an anagram of DIAGNOSE. Nowt as queer as.

  • Comment number 5.

    so could i watch this on the iplayer live, much like being able to watch match of the day, football focus, or the olympics?

  • Comment number 6.

    Will Tim Love be involved in any form? His blog on 606 is brilliant

  • Comment number 7.


    There may be only just over 10% of the population that can GET BBC 2 and not BBC 3, but what about the, I would imagine, far more sizeable percentage which HAVE BBC 2 and not BBC 3? As it stands I will be forced to watch the final hour of the game on my PC. It appears to be something of a half-hearted commitment to the NFL if you are not showing the whole game on the most widely available channel.

  • Comment number 8.

    Thanks for the comments.

    Our NFL coverage won't be in HD because the BBC HD channel has other commitments in that timeslot on Sunday, but we're working to expand BBC Sport HD coverage in the coming years. At the moment, for instance, we're planning HD coverage of the Winter Olympics and the FIFA World Cup in 2010 - as well as more of our regular events.

    The game will be available on the iplayer the following day, all being well, but the live streaming for UK users will be via

    And finally for now - Jerry Rice will be our main expert in the studio.

  • Comment number 9.

    on the online streaming, if someone has a HD screen will it be possible to view the Match in HD or are the BBC just not using the HD camera format?

  • Comment number 10.

    I want to know the same thing as Reggie, will Tim Love be involved at all? That column is really funny.

    Jerry Rice is a great guest to be getting on.

  • Comment number 11.

    Will Mike Carlson be involvedn in the coverage at all, I've not heard his name mentioned?

  • Comment number 12.

    Glad to see that the BBC are showing this, but I'm going to the game, and as a means of taping it to watch when I get back home, I'm taping the Sky coverage, as it's on the same channel throughout. Still, Jerry Rice is a better guest than who Sky have.

  • Comment number 13.

    Yet again, BBC Sport fails to cater for Viewers.
    I feel its completeley bonkers that the BBC are not using the HD Channel (commitments include repeats?), switching coverage to 2 know its unpopular but you still think viewers want it.
    No wonder many of us will watch the game on Sky, they do it 100% better and know what us viewers want (dont play the 'they've had it longer then us' card)
    I fear for the F1 next season, we dont want this.
    Also will Jake Humprey be presenting it?
    If he is, good as he knows his stuff.
    But I hope he isnt doing the F1 as rumoured.

  • Comment number 14.

    Marvelous another 'experiment' where coverage of a minority sport (which lest we forget includes all sports except 'football, rugby, tennis, snooker and golf') is sacrificed in an attempt to flog digital services.

    If the rights are worth paying for they should be worth showing on a mainstream channel.

  • Comment number 15.

    Channel switching is all well and good if you live in the UK but if you are one of many ex-pat viewers in foreign lands it's end of story if the switch is outside the BBC1 and 2 environment.
    Just another example of how we loyal but geographically challenged viewers are penalised - BBC i-Player being the main one. I know we do not pay UK TV licenses but we do pay our cable providers and I am sure that they do not recieve BBC for free so we do in fact pay like everyone else.

  • Comment number 16.

    Just a quick note, so BBC do not bid on Cricket, or even England Away Qualifiers but american Football..... Fantastic!

    Now I know not everyone likes football, or cricket but I bet theres far less license payers out there who like NFL!

  • Comment number 17.

    Will you also be showing the rugby world cup from australia, horse racing from chepstow,rugby union from cardiff and moto GP from valenica Live?..

  • Comment number 18.

    Great. Are we to look forward to other US and unusual sports? Personally, I'd like to see the NBA, MLB and perhaps some 'extreme sports'.
    I will be watching this NFL game this weekend and I'm not even a huge fan of US football.

  • Comment number 19.

    Please show the NBA too.....Please!

  • Comment number 20.

    Yeah great. So the BBC can afford to show a live American Football match, but not any English football matches...

    Sorry but you need to get your priorities right.

  • Comment number 21.

    To be fair Steveo, they've got the non-Premier League rights from next year.

  • Comment number 22.

    So no live Rugby League World Cup 2008 matches on BBC TV or Test Cricket yet you can afford to show live American Football....

  • Comment number 23.

    Thanks for this post Roger. I am pleased that this game will be shown live.

    While I can see the point that many here raise, that the BBC is not showing British national football or cricket teams at all at the moment but showing American Football, I do think that the sport has appeal over here, and it would be good to get back to the days of the early Sunday evening American Football game, as it used to be on Channel Four all those years ago. BBC Three would be a good place for it, for the reasons you state above.

    I think that one of the reasons the posts here have spilled over into other sports is that until the last couple of days there have been no posts on the sports blog for almost a month, so it's the first chance to post any thoughts.

    Sort of echoing some of the previous posts, in terms of cricket, is there any news on the announcement that you were hoping to make soon? I saw a couple of stories regarding TMS retaining rights to summer Tests, but I, and seemingly others too, were hoping for TV coverage news. Is there any chance of highlights via the red button at all? Even though the result was not what was hoped for, the 10 pm Ashes highlights vis the red button two years ago was great.


  • Comment number 24.

    And some responses to the latest comments:

    To sten_super in #7: the latest figures are that 88% of people in the UK have digital TV. I know that's not helpful if you're one of the 12%, but that's why we're also offering the live web coverage, the live radio and the highlights.

    To WebbyFoxes in #13: in fairness, all most viewers have to do is press a button once. Otherwise the coverage is live and uninterrupted with no commercial breaks. F1 next year will also be break-free and the plan is for it to be on BBC One throughout.

    To ormchancer in #13, Stevo77 in #20 and others... Well, I've often cited our list of major events. The Olympics, the World Cup, Match Of The Day, The Six Nations, Wimbledon, F1 from next year and the rest. In that context, 2 live American football games - which fans seem to enjoy - doesn't seem unreasonable.

    To DavidShield II in #11: yep, Mike Carlson will be there too.

  • Comment number 25.

    'all most viewers have to do is press a button once'

    Most viewers is the main word there Mr Mosey, why cant BBC2 just shift the programme in the 7pm slot to another day?
    Also my Mosey, most people dont have Digital TV in any shape or form.
    Also saying 'press a button once' sounds like you are calling the viewers of the coverage stupid.
    Hardly surprising from the BBC, no wonder the BBC are not committed to any sport.
    Keep it all on BBC2, no need to shift it to BBC3 at all!

  • Comment number 26.

    Being one of that 12% who doesnt have digital TV if the whole game had been on a digital channel I wouldnt have had a problem, i'd have just accepted that I'd have to wait for the highlights later that night.

    However to show the first 2 thirds of the game on bbc 2 and then switch to bbc 3 for the finish seems an idiotic decision at best.

    Looking at the BBC2 schedule for the rest of the evening of the 3 shows being shown between 7pm and 10pm, 2 of them are repeats so I would have thought that one of the repeats could have been pulled from the schedule to make way for the extra hour of NFL.

    Out of interest can I ask when was it decided that the BBC would show the game live? If it was a recent decision then I could understand more there being a problem with scheduling but if it had been planned a long way in advance then i could not see why there would be any problem with having the whole game on BBC 2

  • Comment number 27.

    It makes a refreshing change to see the NFL on at a decent hour. Also its nice to see something other than golf or snooker on BBC2, well done. Now to the serious business, Any chance of showing a few other games (other than the superbowl) and are there any plans to bring the Stanley cup playoffs to the Beeb?

  • Comment number 28.

    I understand the comments on here talking about the coverage, and I admit that I would have prefered not to have to change channel during the game, but in the end it was a minor thing to do to enjoy the sport that I love.

    I am glad that the BBC had live coverage of this game and it was a great game too! I really hope that more coverage of this sport could be shown on the BBC.

    What are the chances of there being more games on the BBC in the future? It would be great if the BBC could show more live coverage or at least highlights of games, other than just the Superbowl (which is a very good place to start!).

  • Comment number 29.

    How sad that you handicap the potential of the sport i this country in yet anothr thinnly veiled exercise to try and force people to switch to your poorly perfroming BBC3.

    There is no reason whatsoever not to let the game play in full on BBC2, it's not like this was a surprise event thrown at you, you have had months to plan the schedules.

    Your argument about 88% of people having digital TV is a blatent lie. 88% of people are capable of getting digital TV but most TV sets are still running on Analogue, whethr they are those who havent switched yet or just second TVs in a household. A real figure is more likely to be 40%

  • Comment number 30.

    Hackerjack in #29 and WebbyFoxes in #25: the figures I'm quoting come from the regulators at OFCOM. Their digital TV report earlier this year said:

    "1.1 Survey results for the three months to the end of June 2008 show that take-up of multichannel television on main sets in UK households increased by 0.8 percentage points (pp), from 87.2% to 88.0%, and by 4.5pp year-on-year.

    "1.2 With a majority of main sets now able to receive digital TV, many consumers are now converting additional sets in the home; over half (55%) of all secondary TV sets had been converted to multichannel by the end of Q2."

    So digital TV is in 88% of all homes, and around 70% of all TV sets in the UK now have digital boxes.

    For the record, we had just 4 complaints yesterday about the switch from BBC2 to BBC3 - and the NFL attracted BBC3's largest audience of the night.

    Thanks to gsm136 and Steve_Howe for their kind comments, and for a number of others we received.

  • Comment number 31.

    Hackerjack - if you think 40% is the better figure, what's your source for this???

    Sounds like a great idea to get a game shown regularly throughout the season starting at 9pm on BBC 3.

  • Comment number 32.

    In my opinion the BBC coverage of the NFL game played at Wembley was particularly outstanding and I applaud the BBC for securing the legendary Rice. Arguable the BBC’s professionalism in sports commentary is unparalleled, however I am sorely disappointed that they switched channels during the NFL game. I was totally dismayed as my recorder hasn’t yet developed the AI to change its programming to the alternative channel. Next time start with the alternative least the replay viewers can enjoy the game to its entertaining full.

    Those not familiar with the sport or event will have no concept or understanding of the significance of this historical event. I personally want to see more NFL so that I have that choice from the more traditional sports that I am exposed to on TV, radio and the newspapers on a daily basis. Hopefully, and I am absolutely certain that it will happen, the sport will flourish in the UK, this is but the start.

    American football may well be a minority sport in the UK but it always will be as long as the media support is not there. Its time for a change, or rather for progression. In this day and age there is a multitude of choice and opportunities for people to broaden their outlooks its time for the BBC look forward to the future and cater for the minority sport followers rather than continually playing safe. I say give us choice, give us diversity.

  • Comment number 33.

    This may not be the blog for this. But as these blogs seem to have dried up here we go. The BBC now seem to have lost the rights to the Anglo welsh cup. After sky annouced a new 5 year deal with the RFU.
    More sport lost by the BBC. Soon it will not be worth while the BBC having sports multi screen. (Because according to rumours the BBC will drop even more racing to bring us formula one) Maybe you will drop Rugby in favour of American football. The BBC did not even bid for the rights to the UEFA Cup. It is a disgrace that our national broadcaster does not show any regular live top class football. The money the BBC found for Formula one, could have been put toward the FA Cup and England Internationals. So the BBC will have no club rugby left to show once skys contract come into force.
    What are the plans for BBC sport. The BBC used to show top class sports and a variety of sports week in week out. Now we have less and less sports. If the BBC is including best tries highlights and looped repeats of inside sport in the amount of hours of sport it shows, then that is plying the figures. I have always defended the BBC, always believed that it is the best broadcaster of sport in the world. But it seems that as of late it continually shoots itself in the foot. The loss of anymore rights no matter what sport will be devistating for BBC sport whether it be racing or rugby.
    So what are we to have on satudays from now on Murder she wrote and Diagnosis Murder.

  • Comment number 34.

    To Fitzmurrin:

    First, apologies for the slightly less-frequent blogs. We'll pull our socks up for the rest of the autumn.

    On the main point you make: the hours of televised sport from the BBC are going up. They're massively more than they used to be thanks partly to our red button and interactive services, and next year we'll add Formula 1 and Football League/Carling Cup to the existing main channel mix. We'll also be bringing back live international Rugby League for the first time in many years.

    Now, the Anglo-Welsh rugby union is being reformatted as we reported on this site last month:

    - so what was being offered was a different kind of competition.

    We therefore do change the make-up of our sports content but it's within a framework of (a) trying to extend choice where we can but (b) majoring on big events like the Olympics, the World Cup and domestic landmarks like the Six Nations. The Six Nations gets massively bigger audiences than any club rugby, which is why we've prioritised that and secured the rights up to and including 2013.

    Finally, you've got it the wrong way round about England and the FA contract. We bid competitively for those rights but lost them. However, the money then available within the sports rights budget allowed us to secure F1 and Football League/Carling Cup. This reflects our commitment to as strong a range of sport as possible within a budget which is, inevitably, finite.

  • Comment number 35.

    Thank-you Roger a very informative reply. And whilst I accept that club rugby does pull in less viewers than international rugby. I personally believe that focusing on just one off major events like the world cup aqnd olympics and national landmark events like the six nations is a short sighted way of looking at sports rights.
    ITV did when they scrapped world of sports. But they seem to have realised that was a mistake. Now the ITV/ITV4 schedules are full of sport. Both ITV and Channel four with horse racing tell the whole story through the year. Not just concentrate on the odd few events.
    The BBC when they put there heart and sole into sports coverage is the best.
    I just hope we will see a return to some sort of club rugby maybe with the competition that is Rugbys answer to the Champions League and the Heiniken Cup and horse reacing as the BBC is there to serve the viewers and not just concentrate on ratings as it would seem you are doing with your satement above "The Six Nations gets massively bigger audiences than any club rugby, which is why we've prioritised that and secured the rights up to and including 2013" Whilst I accept that ratings may prove to the BBC is doing its job. We are always told that the BBC is not there to chase ratings.
    I believe that I have have some interesting ideas and would love to discuss some of my ideas with you and various sporting bodies. I would love to meet you and discuss my ideas with you and say the racing or rugby authorities.


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