Brian Barwick: BBC aiming to hit back at Lytham… and they've got Sir Nick to help
21:30 GMT, 18 July 2012
When the new BBC director-general, George Entwistle, takes up the reins in September he may well enjoy some autumn sunshine and the reflected glow of a stunning summer for BBC Sport.
With big viewing figures for Euro 2012 and Wimbledon behind them and the Olympics to come, it is possible that the Corporation’s sports viewing figures will swamp the end-of-year audience ratings charts, a timely reminder that sport remains an integral part of what licence-payers want and expect.
On Wednesday, the BBC endorsed that view in celebrating the securing of the contract to broadcast the Olympic Games up to and including 2020.
Driving forward: The BBC will bring all the best pictures when Royal Lytham
This was a boost for the BBC who no longer televise Test cricket or the FA Cup final, inexplicably have lost the Grand National, the Derby and Royal Ascot, have had their live Formula One coverage sliced in half, controversially moved the sports department to Salford and allowed their on-screen talent to seemingly pop up everywhere.
Next week the BBC will concentrate on things Faster, Higher, Stronger — in the meantime, three other words describe their current approach to televised sport.
Fewer, Bigger, Better is the mantra of an organisation who can’t allow themselves too many fist-fights in the broadcast rights market — and so are in the business of maximising the value of what they have.
The BBC’s recent coverage of Wimbledon proved they can still deliver handsomely when the schedules are opened up, the Centre Court roof is closed, we have ‘our man’ Murray in the final, and there is a genuine confidence about the scale and size of the operation.
Viewer finder: BBC figures will be on the up in the coming weeks thanks to sport
This week it is the turn of golf’s Open Championship at Royal Lytham to enjoy some of that BBC Sport ‘lurve’ and the R&A expect nothing less.
Earlier this year, Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A, pitched in with a well-aimed criticism of the BBC’s commitment to golf in terms of hours and money. The former had ‘dwindled’, the latter ‘plateaued’.
Well, the BBC have responded. They’ve added Sir Nick Faldo to this week’s commentary team and will broadcast upwards of 40 hours of live coverage over four days across BBC1 and BBC2.
On board: Sir Nick Faldo
The action will be captured on around 80 cameras and a small army of camera personnel, technicians and production staff will help the BBC comfortably make the cut in terms of quality and content.
And amid all the modern fandangos of HD, red button, mobile and online, reassuringly it will be a celebrated octogenarian gently guiding us through the action.
Peter Alliss remains the signature voice of the sport and listening to him last weekend at the Scottish Open, for me, he still remains the man to beat.
Of course he has his detractors, but just like David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd on Sky Sports’ exemplary cricket coverage, Alliss uses the pedestrian nature of his sport to muse on all things in golf and life — and take us along with him. He sees the sport as representing more than a string of golf shots.
As a precursor to a monumental few weeks in London, the BBC will hope for a special few days of links golf where the heavens may open but there’ll be no roof to close. Just a point to prove.