Live broadcast British speedway definitely back on Sky Sports again in 2018?

Sky Sports and BT Sport have finally reached agreement to allow open access to all their satellite channels for all their subscribers. Whatever happens in the negotiations with BT Sport over broadcasting Premiership League racing, this definitely means that British Speedway will be broadcast live on Sky Sports next season….albeit that currently the only confirmed meeting is the British Speedway Grand Prix in Cardiff.

Given the combined possible satellite television audience numbers now in play – BT TV’s UK customer base of 1.7 million and Sky’s 12.74 million subscribers in UK & Ireland as well as with the potential of BT Sport availability to over 5 million households – the boost to the national profile of British Speedway that the oxygen of publicity live broadcast grants to the sport, its riders and clubs must surely be much harder for Premiership promoters to justify walking away from now that the powerful showcase of Sky Sports is back in play? Mutual interest allied to BT Sport need to source low cost the summer live sports broadcast hours – something that speedway provides – should see some movement on terms towards agreement rather than the suicide options of terms intransigence (BT) or swallowing the poison pill of outright refusal (SCB/BSPA)?

That said, the signs are not good if judged by the mood music of the stalled negotiations and, on the speedway side, the increasing insistency of the heavy-handed hints dropping from various sources via the pages of the Speedway Star over recent weeks. Though, apparently, Premiership “promoters are pondering a new tv contract” for the 2018 season they are not exactly rushing to accept the [three year] deal without balloon payments that is currently on offer from BT Sport.

Without doubt, the feast days of big balloon payments plus individual meeting staging fees promoters somehow managed to fritter away without anything concrete to show for it in terms of national recognition, robust attendances or home grown rider development are gone. And, in its place, is the pending famine of BT Sport current meeting staging fee offer that for most premiership clubs will only barely cover lost gate receipts.

Compounding the collective failure to invest Sky Sports era monies wisely, the ongoing independently verified collapse of the Speedway television audience in the UK (both Speedway Grand Prix & British League racing) over the past decade or so, surely means that if any commercial broadcaster is brave enough to offer to bear the costs of putting on live coverage without charging British Speedway promotors/clubs for this service (let alone making any payment for doing so) then it would be foolish not to accept even the current ‘derisory’ offer. Unless, of course, there is an alternative development strategy (and serious marketing budget/plan) already on hand and ready to go to take its place.

Though the price of the live broadcast television tail wagging the speedway dog is well known to historically include producing pitiful crowds, rider wage inflation and product perception dilution, this is the strategic road British Speedway embraced. The time to actually sensibly question the real or imagined benefits of the television broadcast deal passed by over a decade ago. Understandably, the reality of reduced fees/revenues has concentrated the promoter hive mind. Just last week, taking an onion from his pocket, Poole Pirates promoter Matt Ford told Speedway stenographer Paul ‘Burbo’ Burbidge, “We’re going into a year where we’re probably going to have no television money”. Whether that is factually true or an exaggeration still remains to be seen. What is certain that the nuclear option of walking away with ‘no deal’ is likely to be exponentially more harmful for the prestige, recognition, prosperity and long term prospects of British Speedway – whatever its future incarnations – than almost any alternative scenario.

Now, with the dashboard warning light flashing, even more than usual, rather than blame others, live in an imaginary parallel universe or play the victim British Speedway needs to play the cards it has dealt itself shrewdly.


Postscript 28.12.17

“One PL track is believed to have suggested that banning the cameras will result in an increase of 200 spectators per meeting at his venue. How he arrives at that mind-boggling conclusion is anyone’s guess.” Philip Rising, Speedway Star, 30.12.17

“Speedway’s future is very much on the line because there are few sports that can flourish without the regular exposure a TV contract guarantees.” Peter Oakes, Speedway Star, 30.12.17

“Some have produced statistical evidence that their crowds went DOWN once BT started their coverage last season.” Anonymous,  Talking Point column, Speedway Star, 30.12.17

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10 Responses to Live broadcast British speedway definitely back on Sky Sports again in 2018?

  1. Tim Matthews
    February 3, 2018 at 11:28 pm

    Lets stop kidding ourselves. I lobe our sport, i enjoyed my time racing aroind the training tracks in the 80’s trying to “make it” (alas i didnt!), but our sport will only ever be niche,,,,ask the average jo or joanne in the strert aboit speedway and they havent a clue. And to think that there are queues of young british lads or lasses ready to trsin and jump on board is i think a fairytail. It was expensive in the 80’s even on an old 2 valve jawa,,,,lord knows what the cost would be to kit out an aspiring teenager now with a competetive machine and kit. The sport has very few training facilities (especially on the south coast), youll habe to get mum or dad to travel hours to het you to a training track where you MIGHT get some decent one on one tuition but more than likely you’ll have to teach yourself and spend thousands on kit and a bike to do so. I know,,,,I was an aspiring young british rider once !

  2. February 12, 2018 at 10:12 pm

    Very interesting comments. However, all I can say as a supporter of British Speedway is:
    B T did not cover a lot of meetings last year, and, the transmission of the GP’s began too
    close to the start of the actual meeting.😗

  3. James jones
    February 13, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    Promoters in it for them selves there as not been a decent one since fearman retired 1960 provincial league can never be matched all speed and no skill there should be one league divide in two riders riding for two teems is a joke rip

  4. Derek Constable
    February 19, 2018 at 8:34 pm

    Let us hope that SKY do return. The BT coverage with nauseating Natalie was amateurish to say the least. They had two excellent speedway experts doing commentary Kelvin Tatum and Nigel Pearson. Followed by Natalie who seemed to say the same thing on every link she made.Please come back SKY. Even technically the coverage lacked enough information . No times for the heats. The team introductions with averages was on screen for about 10 seconds. Impossible to read because they were too small.

  5. Graham new
    March 4, 2018 at 5:19 pm

    Sky pleas come back to speedway

  6. Malb
    March 8, 2018 at 9:19 pm

    It is not only the TV companies that can help improve the finances of
    our fantastic sport but us viewers and track side punters. We need to enthuse as many of our friends and folk we meet in our every day lives. Let’s try and make an effort in 2018 together get the word out that SPEEDWAY is far more exciting that watching 2 teams running up and down a pitch for 90 minutes!!!!!!

  7. Mike
    March 16, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    I left SKY to go to BT when they took it on,now it looks like they are getting it back,it looks like a con to me let BBC or ITV take it on and stuff the pair of them.

  8. joyce edwards
    March 16, 2018 at 7:22 pm

    speedway should come back to sky.riders should only ride for one team,not 2 or needs so much to change to make it popular again.the commentating is so boring.bring the interviews out to the would be so much more interesting to get the views of supporters as the meetings progress.ask the riders what they have been doing during the day.travelling problems etc.we would all like to know what they do between they have other jobs etc.

  9. John haywood
    March 17, 2018 at 8:47 am

    Poole speedway please get dementia friendly I could then come and support poole again with my wife

  10. Ian seymour
    March 20, 2018 at 8:58 pm

    having watched all the tv coverage of speedway since it began, in my opinion last years coverage was the best ever, the GP’s were outstanding, a great advert for the sport, the biggest enemy of course is the weather, when you compare the admission fees against the other major sports ‘it’s a steal’. I began watching when I was 10years old and am now 83, it still gets me on the edge of my seat. Can’t wait for the coming season to start on Easter Monday at my local track. Weather permitting of course!!!

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