By Joe Paley, Account Executive [email protected]
On Saturday afternoon at 12:45pm, the 2015/16 Premier League season started with Manchester United entertaining Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford.
With most spectators of the sport debating how Louis Van Gaal’s United side would line-up on the day, very few took notice of the fact that BT Sport, the channel broadcasting the game, was about to show off its new image for the season.
Since its inception in 2013, BT Sport has made its name by pushing the envelope with its football coverage and introducing new innovations year after year. On Saturday, BT’s first new change was seen in the unexpected place of the commentary box however.
Traditionally in British football, two commentators oversee a game; one a professional journalist and the other a former footballer. On Saturday though, BT utilised presenter Darren Fletcher with both Michael Owen and Glenn Hoddle – two former professionals who made their names in the top flight of British football – which was a first in British football. It was an odd sight for most fans of the game as never before had three commentators overseen a game simultaneously.
But as previously mentioned, this is not the first time BT has tried something new. Just last season, the network used former referees as background pundits who would comment on big decisions made during a game. This again seemed unusual at the time, but has become a mainstream fixture of BT’s coverage now.
Before introducing referee pundits, in their first season of football in 2013 BT spent a lot of money hiring presenters including Jake Humphrey, who was BBC’s Formula One presenter at the time. With a need to stand out and make an impact in the marketplace, BT also went onto hire commentators including Michael Owen, Ian Darke, Steve McManaman and Martin Keown.
This was followed by moving the score line to the bottom left of the screen. Typically in football, the score line is situated in the top left of the screen, but BT attempted to shake things up by bringing it to the bottom. At first the reaction was mixed, however over time, most fans have acclimatised and praised the move – mainly because it gives the viewer more of the screen to view the game.
During their debut season, BT also introduced the “red card sign” – which is a little red symbol shown next to a team’s name on the score line if they have had a player sent off. It has since been introduced by Sky Sports, BBC and ITV after being applauded by both fans and critics.
So to put it simply, after agreeing a deal worth hundreds of millions of pounds with the football authorities, BT Sport needed to experiment and try new things in order to stand out and become successful in the marketplace. In the past, both ESPN and Setanta Sports failed in rivalling Sky Sports. Nevertheless BT with a strong line up, high definition graphics, a modern studio, and a range of new features, succeeded in offering fresh new innovations for football fans.
BT Sport has invested a lot of time in its football image since acquiring the Premier League rights in 2013. The channel illustrates to all businesses that by constantly reinventing and taking risks with new ideas, the chance to stand out in the market and make an impact is there.