Dylan Cleaver on sport

Sport analysis and comment from APN's Head of Sport Dylan Cleaver

Dylan Cleaver: Sky backlash unwarranted

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If you are lucky enough to be a child of the mid-80s onwards, you will have few memories of the sports television landscape pre-Sky TV.

Those of a more mature vintage will also have few memories of sport on the goggle-box pre-Sky because, well, it was pretty forgettable really.

The likes of Bill McCarthy, Phil Leishman and most notably Peter Williams manfully fronted programmes like Sport on One and while we might remember those weekend afternoons in rich sepia tones, the simple fact is the cupboard was pretty bare. What sport was covered, wasn't done particularly well (with the possible exception of horse racing).

Sure, cricket was free-to-air but you were lucky if you got camera at each end and expert commentary consisted of Glenn Turner explaining why nobody was any good anymore and Billy Ibadulla saying, "That is the man..." every time a man did anything exciting, which wasn't very often.

But Sky came in and changed everything. It had fairly humble beginnings - insomniac sports lovers usually had a choice of Dutch club soccer or the Norwegian cross-country skiing champs - but slowly but surely they transformed into a behemoth, winning the rights to pretty much everything we cared about and stuff we pretended to like.

Supplemented by all things American on ESPN, sports fans never had it so good.
Sure, there were grumbles. Nobody actually wants to pay for anything, do they, and many found the subscriptions prohibitive.

Still, the fact that Sky has far greater penetration into the market than virtually all comparative models suggests they have got their pricing about right.

But with success comes another type of scrutiny. The bigger Sky became, the more sports they vacuumed up, the greater the sense grew that the Mt Wellington operation was becoming arrogant, monopolistic and were taking customer loyalty for granted. To the point where the news that they had been outbid for the English Premier League was accompanied by the sounds of corks popping.

But really, it's hard to see what Sky have done that's so bad other than being big, successful and delivering New Zealanders more sport than they would have ever thought possible.

John Drinnan's Media column this morning made a point that resonated. "Who is the face of Sky Sport?" he asked.

They don't have one. Well, they do, but they continue to shine Andrew Mulligan's light under several bushels. They need to pay him a packet, extract him from his Crowd Goes Wild schtick and turn him into the young Chris Berman of New Zealand sports broadcasting.

(This is nothing against TCGW, which, cult appeal and all, might just about go down as the biggest game-changing show in NZ sports media history.)

Mulligan won't make people instantly love Sky again, but he'll give them the sports frontman they need.

Because the truth is, they've still got a hell of a lot of sport to offer... and those with long memories should really be thankful for that.

- NZ Herald

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