Tuesday Team Talk: BT Sport’s Champions League exclusivity is no good thing

Last week’s Champions League action provided talking-points aplenty, but BT Sport’s exclusivity is plain wrong.

Luke Shaw’s excruciating double leg fracture, a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick to overhaul Lionel Messi atop the all-time scoring charts and a total of 48 goals across 16 games signalled an eventful return for Europe’s elite competition.

But on what was a miserable Tuesday night for both Manchester clubs, as they were cast to the sword of PSV Eindhoven and Juventus respectively, BT hogged the live coverage for the first time, and will have seen their subscriptions soar.

Inevitably that will continue to be the case over the coming weeks as fans cave in to the dreaded idea of missing some of the biggest games on the football calendar.

But while BT Sport’s coverage of both the Champions League and Europa League wasn’t completely fine-tuned (nor was that to be expected), that isn’t the problem.

In fact, it’s a format and line-up that works – with the main show anchored by Gary Lineker and the goals show under the experienced wing of James Richardson, BT have two of the best in the business and an all-star supporting cast.

The problem is that it appears elite club football and the words ‘free-to-air’ no longer co-exist meaningfully; ITV reduced to a measly 30-minute Wednesday night highlight program of goals from games with British involvement.

Just over a month ago Channel 5’s football league highlights show epitomised the spotlight that is put on production and packaging of football on television when panned in the wake of its kick-off.

When BT Sport splurged £897m to freeze out ITV and Sky Sports as the first UK broadcaster with exclusive live coverage rights to both the Champions League and Europa League for the next three years, heightened scrutiny was inevitable.

In turn they equipped themselves admirably, and while history tells us that doesn’t always guarantee success – ITV snapped Des Lynam from the BBC for their 2001-04 coverage of the Premier League highlights, and it flopped regardless – it has helped smooth the transition.

Yet following social media as coverage began and throughout the week, it seemed like there was only then a sudden realisation, though we’ve seen it coming for months: the game that was made for the masses is at its highest of levels increasingly behind a barrier.

In time we will adjust and likely laud BT Sport’s potentially top-notch coverage, but for now, it remains instinctually amiss.

Here are some Twitter highlights:

Image courtesy of BT Sport, via Youtube, with thanks.

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