BT Sport has entered the rugby broadcasting fold with a mix of energy and innovation.
The Aviva Premiership is the channel’s flagship rugby rights, with 69 exclusively live games across the season and regular weekly slots to help bring strife to couples around the country as fans are now able to meticulously plan their weekends around their rugby viewing.
The channel’s new approach to broadcasting, particularly the Aviva, is a refreshing change from the somewhat stagnant Sky offering of Alex Payne quizzing Scott Quinnell and Paul Wallace, while they’re perched uncomfortably on a studio bench like they’re on the London underground. And DO NOT get me started on Stuart Barnes!
It’s not just BT Sport’s in-studio LED-lit rugby pitch (the only one of its kind in world broadcasting), where the pundits can do live re-enactments using members of the audience, but also the revelations of new camera angles, increased access to players and coaches through a better relationship with Premiership Rugby and a pop-up small screen which allows viewers to watch interviews while the game progresses.
Intriguing examples are the new lineout cam, which is effectively a camera on a long pole, but will give fans an aerial view of the throw-in.
While the game’s stalwarts will be critical, the challenge of bringing the fans the all-singing all-dancing modern tricks without appearing too gimmicky has been handled well and a combination of well-spoken, knowledgeable former and current players provide a friendly balance to the high-tech.
The energy of the presenters also plays a huge part and the likes of Craig Doyle, Martin Bayfield and Matt Dawson, sporting a great country bumpkin-style flat cap, had it in spades at a rain-soaked Twickenham Stoop on Friday night, as Quins hosted the Saints. In fact, you got the sense the cameraman was struggling to keep up as he frantically chased Martin Bayfield around the field in the hunt for mid warm-up comments from the likes of Chris Robshaw and Saints’ new scrum-half signing Samoan international Kahn Fotuali’i. Nick Evans had an off-day with the boot and gave a very honest, frank assessment to Bayfs from the bench after coming off midway through the second half.
And it’s paying off. The average TV viewing figures over the first weekend of the Aviva were up a staggering 130% on the first weekend of the 2012-13 season. The London Double Header attracted peak viewing figures of 121k and Sunday’s Leicester v Worcester game peaked at 185k.
Premiership Commercial Director Dominic Hayes is rightly pretty chuffed: “The figures prove the huge interest in Aviva Premiership Rugby and we are delighted to see all of the hard work delivering results.
“We are committed to bringing fans closer to the action and at Premiership Rugby we have been delighted with the partnership so far, not just for live matches but the midweek show – Rugby Tonight.
“The coverage innovations like the dressing room cameras and in-game interviews have been welcomed by our supporters.”