A Ticket For Auntie

BBC Sport

Jono Bullard from The Cat’s Whiskers Podcast reacts to the news that BBC Sport will be showing Sunday’s Challenge Cup final live online

As with most weeks when we record the TCW podcast, some major breaking news always seems to be released a few hours after we finish recording. This week was no exception, so welcome back to the Sheffield Steelers Jonathan Phillips!

Joking of course. It was announced today that BBC Sport will be showing the Challenge Cup final live on their website. This is the first time that domestic league hockey has been covered by a free to air broadcaster since Channel Four covered the 2000/2001 Challenge Cup, and the first time the BBC have covered it since the 2000 Challenge Cup final. In my opinion this is a very big deal in terms of getting recognition of Elite League hockey out to the wider public and represents some excellent work from the EIHL media team.

EIHL media consultant Seth Bennett will be heading the coverage. He spoke to me about the deal earlier today and said “When the Challenge Cup went to a one off final the aim was always to try and use it to bring the game to a wider audience. It is one of the reasons it wasn’t included in the Premier Sports TV deal.

Premier Sports is a valued broadcast partner for the Elite League, but like other sports it is great to have more than one offer for the fans which helps grow the sport. So the decision was taken to keep the Challenge Cup Final separate and try and work with other broadcasters. Last year a deal didn’t quite fall into place and so it was webcast. This year the negotiations picked up again with three prominent channels and eventually a deal was agreed with the BBC.

Times are changing from a broadcast stand point and all the main broadcasters are looking at new and cost effective ways of trying to satisfy a wider audience than before. Previously cost was prohibitive, now it is getting to the point where with a bit of will and effort you can do things at a high quality for about a tenth of the cost.

Sunday will be a great experiment for the sport and for the BBC to see if this is a format which will work in the future for all parties. It is another small step which brings ice hockey into the eye line of sports fans as well as hockey fans.”

Seth makes a very good point about changing times. We’ve seen from the rise of services such as Amazon Prime & Netflix that watching habits are changing and people want to be able to access content from anywhere. We already have this with Premier Sports Premier Player service. Now the sport has a chance to reach even more people through perhaps the biggest name in worldwide broadcasting. Other sports such as basketball have benefited from coverage through the BBC website. This could now represent a step change for coverage of hockey in the UK, I for one really hope Sunday is a massive success.

The Challenge Cup Final will be streamed live on the BBC Sport Website on Sunday starting at 3.50pm. Seth Bennett will be joined on commentary by Sheffield Steelers coach Paul Thompson and Owen Bradley will be rink side.

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