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BBC and Television Genres in Jeopardy

Jeremy Tunstall

This book considers British television from the point of view of executive producers: the people who employ the workforce and are in charge of making all television series. The focus of the book is twenty-one separate genres, at least seven of which are in significant decline – namely current affairs, education, natural history, science, arts, children’s and religion. Some other public service genres – such as documentary, history and travel – are in good health. The most commercially successful genres include formatted factual entertainment series, such as cooking, homes, quiz/game, reality and sport.
The author completed 150 interviews not only with executive producers but with BBC and ITV channel controllers and top genre commissioners. Playing a supporting role are another 200 interviews, which were the basis of the author’s 1993 book, Television Producers. Since 1990, and especially since 2008, British television production has faced financial challenges. Meanwhile, BSkyB, Virgin Media and Channel Five are American controlled, and most of the larger London ‘independent’ production companies are now American or Euro-American owned and operated. Public service broadcasting in general, and BBC television in particular, are threatened with probable further decline. This book offers new insights into the state of British television through the eyes of those working on the inside.
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Chapter 11: TV Sports: Live, Formatted, Monetised

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CHAPTER 11

TV Sports: Live, Formatted, Monetised

Since the 1980s, Sport has changed more, expanded more and been more commercialised than has any other television genre:

In 1990 Sky and BSB were together already offering a total of four sports channels. But the key development was the merged BSkyB’s 1992 contract to carry large quantities of live English Premier League football. Rupert Murdoch (by 1996) saw sport as vital both to Sky’s UK achievements and to his ambitions across the world:

Sport absolutely overpowers film and everything else in the entertainment genre … Football, of all sports, is number one. Look at what we have done in Britain with our ← 331 | 332 → Premier League soccer, and now with rugby union and rugby league in the United Kingdom as well …    [There is] one development which is very pleasing in our sports programming in India, which was beginning to get very expensive … We have now formed a partnership with our former sports programming competition, ESPN of the United States.    We have the long-term rights in most countries to major sporting events and will be doing in Asia what we intend to do elsewhere in the world, that is, use sports as a ‘battering ram’ and a lead offering in all our pay television operations.

This was Rupert Murdoch speaking at the annual meeting of News Corporation in Adelaide, on October 15 1996.

Since the 1980s the sums of money involved in...

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