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TV breakdown

Oh well, looks like we’re not going to get a TV deal after all.

To be honest, I’m both surprised and not surprised at the same time, if that makes any sense. Surprised because a division with Oxford, Luton, Cambridge and ourselves (BBB) certainly has some nice angles for the media. And the line that many BSP games drew as big an audience as the SPL when Setanta covered both certainly seemed a plausible one.

Reading the article above though, perhaps it wasn’t unexpected after all. In a nutshell, ESPN didn’t think it was worth paying for it. They don’t have enough capacity on their currently sole channel as it is (although the BSP would have been a decent enough filler for blank weekends).

Also, if places like Digital Spy are to be believed, ESPN itself has a business model where it slowly builds up its brand and doesn’t pay more than it has to for anything. Reportedly, it got the Serie A rights dirt cheap (either 1/8th or 1/15th of the asking price) and quite simply thought the BSP was asking for too much. ESPN itself doesn’t have (m)any outside broadcast units – its Prem/SPL coverage is supplied by Sky’s own cameras – and obviously they’ll go where the guaranteed audience is.

Reading between the lines though, one suspects there’s more to it.

If anyone recorded the Conference Award Show on Setanta at the end of last season, you’d have gathered just how tight the Conference was with Setanta. Pretty understandable really – after all, it gave the division an exposure and legitimacy it never had before (or since). Not to mention the money paid out, which as we all now know was more dodgy than opening an account with Lehman Brothers was this time last year.

Looking back, how typically non-league it all was.

And this is why I’m inclined to blame the Conference for this deal collapsing. Let’s be honest here – apart from a Luton v AFCW type fixture, why would people tune into a typical Conference game? Just look at the attendances of some in this division, people really do vote with their feet. The presence of Luton etc does mask that this is still non-league, and some of the attitudes of non-league prevail.

Yet the Conference appeared to want Setanta mark 2, namely the money and amount of coverage all teams received, and ESPN weren’t going to give them it. True, the timing of Setanta’s demise was unfortunate, and I still have an image of a group of Conference chairmen trying getting the defibrillator onto its corpse for a good week afterwards. The air punctuated with cries of “No! No! It must live!”

If this feeling is right (the Conf wanting Setanta revisited, not Conference chairmen having emotional breakdowns), the Conf should have been a lot more realistic. A broadcaster would have loved to have shown our opening game of the season. But they wouldn’t want to show a Kettering v Grays, as one suspects the Conference wanted. No disrespect to Grays, though plenty intended for Kettering, but who really cares about them?

You could bring up the SPL v BSP viewing figures here. Thing is, one suspects broadcasters would happily jettison the bulk of SPL games too – they only show them because it’s part of the deal to show the Old Firm battles. The Conf doesn’t have that one guaranteed selling point, therefore nobody as yet is keen to take it on.

Should the Conference have lowered its apparent demands?  Yes. Perhaps even to the point where they give away rights for practically nothing. As the Oxford chairman said in the article, exposure is everything. Christ, we of all people should know that from 2002. Remember the culture shock when one season you could pick up the NOTW for our match report, then the next season waiting until Thursday for the Surrey Comet to give about a column inch for us?

We now live in an era where football clubs are “brands”, where a generation of fan is now bought up on watching their games on telly or internet streaming (legally, of course). The days when all games kicked off at 3pm have gone forever, in fact they disappeared well over 15 years ago. We have to move with the times*

* – as an aside, and I have genuinely heard this viewpoint stated. Anyone thinking we should turn down any game moving for TV “to put the fans first” is being painfully ignorant. We wouldn’t get as much kudos as they would like to think – in fact, we’d just get laughed at. We are all used to TV taking over now. Not to mention them making an enemy for life from our commerical department. It is, in effect, an attitude that wouldn’t look out of place in the Ryman…

So you can imagine the blow such a lack of exposure would give everyone. From an AFCW point of view, we do generate enough interest (relatively speaking) anyway, but we need more. We will always need more. Even, or especially, when fighting the propaganda war – let’s be honest here, Franchise get the bulk of the regular coverage because they stole our league place. AFCW on telly more often brings what we’ve done into the average punter’s living room…

Anyway, now what? Well, according to this from the NLP, there might still be something on the horizon. Although is it me or does this article’s angle totally contradict what Brian Lee or even the bloke from Sports 360 are quoted as saying? I stand by everything I said about the Conference’s expectations, in fact Lee’s comments seem to just compound that.

Typically, the article was taken down as soon as I posted it. Anyone who has the cover story from the 13th September edition of the NLP will know what it said (a scanned copy most welcome). Some of the story though has been reproduced here, though suitably updated.

One can’t help wondering if the Conference sides and supporters have been spun a pretty long yarn over this whole thing. We’ve gone from being “very close” to suddenly not expecting one? Hmm, and hmm again. Really can’t see the patience of some clubs who really do need the TV money being placated over this. Especially when they’ve just recovered from the financial bombshell of not getting their owed Setanta money after all.

The league might end up on something like Bravo or Dave, which while it would gain us exposure would be a little bit of a humiliation of sorts. It would make the league sound like a bit of a novelty act (a league on a comedy channel?), and would undo the very real credibility that Setanta did give it. Watch the tone of Dave’s self-promotion adverts to see what I mean. Even the current highlights on Soccer X on the Sky platform degrades the division somewhat, especially given some of the rather dodgy editing.

And then there’s this rather intriguing “internet streaming” thing. Why does Turdey TV flash in my mind……….?