ITV Sport Channel
|ITV Sport Channel|
|Launched||11 August 2001|
|Closed||12 May 2002|
|Owned by||Carlton Communications (50%)
Granada plc (50%)
Availability at time of closure
|ITV Digital||Channel 20|
ITV Sport Channel was a digital sport television channel, that was owned by Carlton Communications and Granada plc. It was launched on 11 August 2001 and closed on 12 May 2002, following ITV Digital's collapse over a month later. ITV Sport Channel had 2 sister channels, ITV Sport Plus and ITV Sport Select.
Matt Smith, Tony Dorigo, Russell Osman, John Hendrie, Garry Nelson, Guy Havord, Guy Mowbray, Peter Drury, Jon Champion, David Fairclough, Paul Walsh, Jim Beglin, Simon Hill, Peter Stevenson, Carrie Frais, Lisa Rogers and Dave Beckett commentated for the channel.
The ITV Sport Channel can trace its foundations back to 1999 when the then named ONdigital service acquired exclusive rights to screen every match from the UEFA Champions League, to supplement ITV's existing coverage of the competition. Two channels to show the matches were set up, entitled Champions on 98 and Champions on 99, reflecting the channel numbers these were broadcast on. Prior to the 2000-01 season, these channels were re-branded respectively as ONsport 1 and ONsport 2, after ONdigital had purchased rights to the ATP Masters Series tennis. Whilst ONsport 1 broadcast 24 hours a day, ONsport 2 timeshared with Carlton Cinema.
In June 2000, ONdigital successfully outbid BSkyB for the rights to show live matches from The Football League and the League Cup, for a massive £315m over three seasons, at least five times more than any broadcaster had previously bid for it. The launch of the ITV Sport Channel was announced in April 2001 and both ONsport 1 and ONsport 2 were closed down prior to its launch and the subsequent renaming of the ONdigital service to ITV Digital. The channel launched on 11 August 2001 with Manchester City v Watford in the First Division.
There were also two spin-off channels, ITV Sport Plus and ITV Sport Select. ITV Sport Select showed the on-demand Premier League football matches from Sky Sports and ITV Sport Plus was available on Champions League matchdays to show additional live matches from the competition.
The cost of the Football League deal proved one too many a burden for ITV Digital, and it was placed into administration on 27 March 2002, after the League refused to accept a £130m pay cut in its £315m deal with the ITV Sport Channel. Most subscription channels ceased broadcasting on ITV Digital on 1 May 2002, with the ITV Sport Channel being re-designated as a free-to-air channel. The collapse caused severe financial difficulties for lower-division football clubs who had budgeted for large incomes from the television contract.
The Football League sued ITV Digital's parent companies, Carlton and Granada, claiming that the firms had breached their contract in failing to deliver the guaranteed income. The League lost the case, with the judge ruling that it had "failed to extract sufficient written guarantees". The League then filed a negligence claim against its lawyers for failing to press for a written guarantee at the time of the deal with ITV Digital. This time it was awarded a paltry £4 in damages of the £150m it was seeking.
Throughout its time on air football was the mainstay of the channel. In addition the live Football League coverage, the channel showed Saturday night primetime highlights from all three divisions. The UEFA Champions League coverage previously shown on ONsport moved to the channel and this helped to fill out the channel's schedule. As well as football, other sports were also covered, including ATP Masters Series tennis, British basketball and boxing from the United States. The channel also acquired secondary rights to European Cup rugby union.
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