Friday, 8 June 2018

When a man is tired of sport on TV, he saves a shedload of money

I took the plunge a fortnight ago and cancelled our (well, let's be honest - my) subscription to Sky Sport. In the process, I discovered we were also still paying for access to Sky Box Sets and its children's service (our "child" is now 24). I had been toying with the idea of cancelling Sky Cinema, but when we discovered that we'd already saved almost £600 a year (!), we decided to keep it as a little-used luxury item. I'd been warned that Sky would try to pressure me into keeping Sport, but I think my truthful answer that I was the only one in the house who watched it, and that I'd simply grown tired of doing so, convinced them they'd be flogging a dead horse. So where did it all go wrong?...

I used to watch Premier League and Champions League football matches, any number of tennis tournaments, FI racing, international cricket, and a bit of IPL (the annual Indian T20 competition). The biggest wrench should have been tennis, but when my great hero Roger Federer won his 20th grand slam title in January, I felt totally sated: I can't ask any more of him, I've no interest in watching Rafael Nadal play (I never have), and I find the prospect of Djokovic, Murray, Wawrinka and Nishikori fighting to get back into the top rank unappealing. Perhaps I'll feel differently when the younger generation - the likes of Zverev, Thiem and Kyrgios - finally start winning slams. But, for now, I'm pooped. I'll probably watch Queen's and Wimbledon for the sake of tradition, but I've already got those covered via the BBC licence fee.

I used to make a point of watching Manchester United and Spurs matches, but, inevitably, Jose Mourinho has turned the Red Devils into a stodgy, calculating, joyless, bus-parking outfit with none of the swashbuckling romanticism which often made Sir Alex Ferguson's teams so thrilling to watch - and it seems as if Spurs are fated to be occasionally exciting and stylish also-rans. I also used to enjoy the occasional La Liga match - but Sky has managed to lose the rights to televise those last month. As for the rest of the Premier League - and the Champions League - edited highlights will do just fine for me.

Cricket? The only test match series I have any genuine interest in following is the Ashes - and, not only did Sky lose it to BT this winter, but home advantage has taken the shine off these encounters. As for series which don't involve England, I find the terrible, echoing emptiness of the grounds very disheartening. If the locals can't be bothered turning up to support their team, why should I take an interest? I enjoy a bit of knockabout, bash-boom-crash T20 stuff - but it's like reading a whole book of cartoons at one sitting: gratification is so instant that it soon becomes unrewarding.

I'd still like to watch the occasional FI race - but as one starts each season safe in the knowledge it's either going to be Hamilton or Vettel, neither of whom is particularly likeable, I'd prefer to bide my time until Verstappen and Ricciardo get to drive cars that are actually capable of consistently beating Ferrari and Mercedes. 

Ultimately, though, my problem with watching live sport these days is a lack of patience: I often find myself wanting to fast-forward to the result. And, if you're more interested in the result than the game itself, you might as well follow proceedings on social media and do something else in between updates.


  1. Oddly enough, I had been going through the same set of reflections on whether my Sky subscription was money well spent, not least because the pub up the road shows both Sky and BT football, is rarely crowded and it's always fun to watch sport in company. It was really only the live cricket which persuaded me to keep it.

    I suspect we may be in a transitional phase for sport and other entertainment on TV. The BT attempt to capture the Sky sport plus broadband market seems not to have impressed their shareholders and the resulting reduction in Sky coverage has meant that their marketability has changed, with households like yours re-thinking the value of their subs. There has already been a reduction in the bid price for the Premiership and the present bidding war model doesn't strike me as sustainable with a new generation of potential customers who are used to getting their entertainment via low-cost streaming and simply won't shell out £800 a year. Add to that the Amazon and Netflix wider entertainment market capture and it's really only the BBC with its £180 national poll tax that can be confident in continuing as before, as no Government has the courage to touch it.

    1. I think you're dead right. Sky could just about get away with it before BT started making inroads into their sport offering, but it's beginning to look decidedly patchy - just as the flood of new US dramas on Netflix and Amazon Prime are taking the lustre off Sky Atlantic. With the continuing coverage of the Olympics, Wimbledon, Premier League and Champions League highlights, and the whole of the World Cup on terrestrial channels, it really is difficult to see how Sky and BT can justify charging casual sports viewers like me so much. Are there enough sports fanatics out there to sustain the current model? Doubt it.

      As for the licence fee, it really shouldn't be sustainable either. But you're right - as with the NHS, I doubt if any government (at least in my lifetime) will have the guts to abolish it. Given the BBC's relentless anti-Brexit, pro-immigration and pro-NHS diet, my former employer seems to have reached the same conclusion.

  2. Given the exponential growth of female sports and its slavish coverage by the sportscasters [who watches it anyway - the Joan Hunter Dunn brigade?] why not create specific channels and cluster them together and then the rest of us can get on with the real stuff. There is something unfeminine and inelegant about ladies engaged in violent, sweaty sport. Another reason to give up Sky Sport. I don't have BT Sports so I don't know whether they have climbed on this band-wagon.

    Even more concerning is the invasion by women of the commentary boxes. There is poor old Sir Geoffrey cowering next to some virago giving her comments on England - that's no way to treat an old man. As for match commentary and touchline interviews being conducted by small, light-voiced females with their hair blowing all over the place it is unacceptable.

    I am hanging on to Sky for the next two SA-England Rugby Tests and the England-India Cricket series in August and then I am getting rid of the whole seedy crowd. Your posts and comments have been a great encouragement.