Written by Sport, TV

Dropping The Ball

I know that a million and one other people have already talked about ITV’s nightmare last night (yes – I’m conveniently overlooking Robert Green’s one), but it really is worth saying a little more.
ITV1’s HD channel managed to miss Gerard’s 4th minute goal by playing a sponsorship credit for Hyundai (not an advert), followed by a few moments of blackness before we returned to a celebrating England team.
What has been less-reported is that apart from a period during the first path, following the mix-up, ITV1 HD dropped back to an SD picture. Was this something they could have fixed at half-time? Perhaps, but they didn’t. The whole of the second half was also broadcast in SD.
Every time the BBC goes to a major sporting event, the Daily Mail loves to give the BBC a kicking about the number of staff they’re sending, but I think that a belt and braces approach to technicalities is the right one to avoid technical mishaps on this scale.
ITV, of course, memorably missed a goal last year in an FA Cup fixture between Everton and Liverpool, when a scheduled ad-break started during extra-time. Again a goal was missed. At that time, Michael Grade personally apologised.
Last night, Adrian Chiles, in his first big ITV outing mumbled something about an “interruption” that we may have suffered, while the commentary team were left out in the cold and either not told anything or not saying anything.
A mistake is a mistake, but this is really bad news for ITV. World Cups come around every four years, and ITV always makes a play to get two of the three group games it shares with the BBC because that gives them some guaranteed advertising income. Those spots were sold long ago.
Indeed Hyundai, one of ITV’s match sponsors, won’t be happy either, as they’ve been drawn into something that wasn’t of their making. What’s more advertisers like Sony, Samsung and the big TV retailers won’t be happy. They’ve been busily persuading us to upgrade to HD for the World Cup and many will have. An irate editor of the Jewish Chronicle was in the same situation as my good friend James Cridland in buying a new Freeview HD box to watch the World Cup fixtures in HD.
In 2008 during the Germany v Turkey Euro 2008 semi-final in Basel, lightning at the broadcast centre in Vienna caused coverage to cease on several occasions during the game. That was at least, a large scale technical problem (one that shouldn’t have happened as I understand it, with fail-safes failing), with some clever workarounds being quickly found by utilising a Swiss feed and rebroadcasting that on another satellite channel. This was different, and no other country had the same problems.
Perhaps, like Robert Green, it was World Cup nerves. A few weeks ago, there was a massive drop in the New York Stock Exchange – something that still hasn’t been fully explained. One excuse laid on it was “fat finger” syndrome. In other words, someone pressed the wrong button. I suspect that this was what happened at ITV.