Chapter 9 entitled “More Sports Channels The Advent of Sports Channels in Europe” is another reading by Papathanassopoulos. Papathanassopoulos explores the increase in demand of the Sports channel and its success compared to other genres of television. Papathanassopoulos starts off by stating that sports have always had a symbiotic relationship with broadcast media, but the arrival of digital television and pay TV complicated this relationship. Sports events are one of the largest audience attractions and specifically Europe is one of the most competitive sports markets in the world. Because of the immense success sports radiate private media companies have bought exclusive rights to certain sports programming. Sports used to be an experience that people bought tickets to. Today, we can watch these sports live, for a fee, on our televisions. The main income of sports has shifted from ticket sales to paid programming.
Papathanassopoulos explains the arrival of sports channels in Europe. He focuses on soccer, because soccer is one of the leading sports in Europe so therefore there is a high demand to watch soccer on television. The chapter explains that in 1995 there were only 3 sports channels: Eurosport, a pan-European channel and Sky Sports in the UK and Deutsches SportsFernsehen in Germany. By 2000 there were about 60 sports channels in Europe. Sports have been a major factor in the development of commercial television because of its high demand.
Papathanassopoulos pays close attention to some of these regional and global programming channels that focus on sports including Eurosport, Extreme Sports, channels in larger European countries and channels in smaller European countries. Eurosport generates two services, one being pan-European Eurosport available in 12 languages and Eurosport France. In 2000 it also added Eurosport News. Eurosport features major sports events such as the World Cup, the Tour de France and the Rugby World Cup. Extreme Sports is a part of the UPC and the British Programme distributor Extreme Group International. It airs risk taking sports such as surfing and snowboarding and has a younger target audience. The larger European countries include the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy. Most of their sports channels are targeted at their local audiences. The UK is the largest sports market in Europe. BSkyB sports channels are the most watched and has about seven million subscribers. France’s Canal Plus covers live sports events and covers many difference services, such as purchasing a season ticket for all PPV games. Spain’s CSD and Via share pay-TV and PPV rights and created Audiovisual Sport II to handle these rights. Germany’s DFS suffered from the lack of popularity from their soccer games. In 1996 DFS launched thematic channels including DFS plus, DFS golf and DFS Action. Italy’s Telepui airs many different soccer games. Papathanassopoulos follows by covering smaller countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands.
The chapter shifts and explains that with deregulation in Europe private television stations started to bid for the most popular sports events. Popular sports attract viewers to purchase programming packages, thus the major companies were willing to spend buy as much as they could. To prove this point Papathanassopoulos adds that between 1990 and 1999, European soccer rights were at about 800% inflation. The chapter explains the fights for rights many companies have gone through in order to play live sports events that attract audiences. Because of this wide attraction there as been serious inflation of TV sports rights. With the spread of PPV and pay-TV the sports market has been increasing in demand and prices have skyrocketed to own the rights to air such sports events. There have been negative events as a result of this inflation, such as the bankruptcy of the rights agency ISL in 2001. To prevent such events occurring again Papathanassopoulos proposes that the sports leagues themselves should handle individually who should have the rights to their games.
Sports events used to cater to live audiences but today they mostly cater to television. Recently, commercial channels have had problems financing the costs of sports and advertising. Sports channels are one of the most expensive programs in the industry and because there is an array of channels made possibly by digital television there has been an increase in TV buying power. PPV and pay-TV are the biggest buyers in this industry and have over all successfully grown from owning sports programming. But because of deregulation in Europe there was a decrease in public programming. This has created numerous side effects including the Television without Frontiers Directive. This directive came about when the EU questioned if it should guarantee all of its citizens the possibility of watching major sports events on television. As a result each EU country had been asked to make a list of national and international protected events that would be guaranteed to the public for free.
Sports channels and viewing has changed over time. We now have easy access to almost any game via our television sets. Digital technology may even change the way we can watch a game with more interactive applications. The text questions if that is necessary since watching televisions is generally passive. In addition, we can now access sports information on the internet including sports news and live coverage.
Papathanassopoulos summarizes this chapter in a some what negative manner. He states, “The advent of digital television and pay-TV in Europe has complicated the relationship between sports and television.” He adds that sports channels are a side effect of deregulation. There is a lack of accessibility for watching sports now because of PPV and pay-TV. In addition, the EU remains nervous because the large media companies swallowing all the rights to sports events, thus making access to these events increasingly expensive.
Papathanassopoulos makes many good points with in this article. PPV and pay-tv make it hard for those who enjoy sports with out a large income to enjoy watching sports television. Even though it is a great way to market and increase revenue for individual companies it creates inflation and over all chaos in regards to ownership of specific events.
The next article is entitled The Racing Driver and His Double by Jean Baudrillard. This article was published in 2002 and according to Wikipedia Baudrillard is a “French sociologist, philosopher, cultural theorist, political commentator, and photographer. His work is frequently associated with postmodernism and post-structuralism.” This article came from Screened Out. The over all point of this article focuses around Formula One and comparing it as a sport to a product. Baudrillard recalls racing as an experience created by a man and a machine working simultaneously together. Baudrillard compares Formula One to a pyramid where the driver is at the tip and trickles down to the media, television and millions of viewers. But even though the competition of this sport seems to be with in the circuit it is actually with in the world cark market, in the popularity charts and in advertising. Baudrillard takes a clear stance in explaining the transformation of Formula One with in the media. It is less of a sport today than it used to be and is merely a target for branding itself has a commodity. Baudrillard is clearing discontent with the loss of the passion of the sport. I can connect with Baurdrillard’s stance because today most of us enjoy sports through television. The passion is lost because we are not part of the danger the driver experiences any more. We merely experience it virtually instead of being a participant.
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