BT Sport’s emergence to rival Sky means armchair fans have never had it so good

Liverpool versus Stoke City is normally one of football’s more routine fixtures, but on Saturday their lunch-time match doesn’t just kick-off a new season of Premier League football but a whole new broadcasting era.

After weeks of previews, trials and pre-season friendlies, BT Sport know it is about to get much more serious. On Saturday, they come under the scrutiny of a TV football audience that knows what it likes, likes what it knows and can make instant judgements.

If you have caught any of their early transmissions you will have noticed that LIVERPOOL are playing Stoke City live on BT Sport on Saturday. And that Jake Humphrey will front their coverage from ‘the largest TV studio on planet Earth’.

OK, the last lot are my words, but it is some studio and you feel the production team are still getting to grips with it. A classic ‘one plus two’ interview can look dwarfed in such a vast space — but these are early growing pains.

Humphrey is energetic, accomplished and confident and they’ll be useful assets as his team of experts settle in. Steve McManaman, Tony Pulis and the impressive Owen Hargreaves will join Humphrey for BT Sport’s Premier League debut.

With Ian Darke and Ray Stubbs, in the commentary box and at pitch-side respectively, they have seasoned professionals to fall back on. Ex-referee Mark Halsey will chime in too. Sky Sports have seen off rivals before and ‘will concentrate on their own game’.

Or, four Premier League games to be exact this weekend. Once the final whistle goes at Anfield, all eyes turn to Sky and their Saturday tea-time offering of Swansea v Manchester United and then a Sunday double-header: Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea v Hull City Tigers. The return of Jose Mourinho guarantees good telly.

Monday Night Football is back with Manchester City v Newcastle United and a chance to enjoy Sky’s new pairing of Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher. They will prove a huge hit, two guys, fresh out of the dressing room, with a refreshing style of saying it as they see it.

Carragher not only read the game brilliantly on the pitch, he also read everything about the game off it.

Over at the BBC, that great hardy perennial, Match of the Day, has made changes in its studio line-up. Mark Lawrenson has lost his regular slot and they’ll lead off on Saturday night with a Danny Murphy/Alan Shearer combination. New MOTD2 presenter Mark Chapman will be joined by Gus Poyet and Alan Hansen, in his last season, after two decades of distinguished service.

The programme’s best hand, for me, remains Gary Lineker directing the traffic from his presenter’s seat and this season knowing he will end up at the World Cup.
Sky Sports will hope that an unprecedented 116 live Premier League games, regular live Football League and Scottish Premiership action, a splash of La Liga and the UEFA Champions League, presented by a strong team, will see off the new ‘noisy neighbours’ at BT Sport. For their part, BT Sport will thrive on their ‘newness’ and sense of adventure.

The winners? That may just be us — the viewers.

Read more:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

« Back To Blog