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Commercial broken?

Bang!

That was the sound of ITV shooting themselves in the foot. And not for the first time.

Last night’s FA Cup fourth round replay between Everton and Liverpool had meandered its way through 90 goalless minutes – the most significant action being a red card for Liverpool’s Lucas Leiva – and a further 28 minutes of extra time, when ITV inexplicably cut away from the live action to a commercial break.

Nothing much happened while they were away – other than Everton’s Dan Gosling scoring the only goal of the game. Viewers returned from the break just in time to witness Everton’s delirious celebrations.

Oops.

ITV have claimed there was a technical fault, and that the ad break was not deliberate.

The cause of this – and it is entirely possible that it was not human error but an automated break in transmission caused by the delay in scheduled programming resulting from the extra time period – doesn’t really matter. Viewers who had patiently sat through two hours of pretty dull fare were robbed of the game’s decisive moment. Being able to see the replay is utterly inadequate compensation. The whole point of live sport is that you watch it, well … live.

And this is not the first time ITV commercial breaks have caused controversy in their sports coverage. The 2005 San Marino Grand Prix was interrupted three laps from the end, with Michael Schumacher, who had chased down a 20-second deficit on race leader Fernando Alonso, all over the back of the Spaniard’s Renault. The reason? ITV are contractually obliged to broadcast five commercial breaks during the race; they had only aired four.

Having outbid the BBC for broadcast rights to the FA Cup, ITV have been widely lambasted for their coverage, which has veered from barely adequate to shockingly bad at times.

Somehow, I don’t think the events of last night – whether human or technical error – will have helped the channel’s standing among sports fans.

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

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