Broadcasting of sports events

Broadcasting of sports events

The broadcasting of sports events is the coverage of sports on television, radio and other broadcasting mediums. It usually involves one or more commentators describing the events as they happen.


United States

The first radio broadcast of a baseball game was on 5 August 1921 over Westinghouse station KDKA from Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Harold Arlin announced a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies. In September 1939, the first American football game, a college contest between Fordham and Waynesburg College was broadcast on television [] . NBC can be accredited to the first television broadcast of a National Football League (NFL) game, when they covered a game on 22 October 1939 between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Brooklyn Dodgers. The broadcast rights of the NFL soon became an important property after the 1958 NFL Championship.

"Monday Night Football" , "NFL on FOX", and "NBC Sunday Night Football" have changed the landscape of American football broadcasts, including the scheduling of the Super Bowl, transforming it into a primetime spectacle from an afternoon broadcast.


In 1933, Foster Hewitt called a Canada-wide radio broadcast of a National Hockey League battle between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Always starting the broadcast with "Hello, Canada, and hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland!", this phrase stuck around all the way to CBC's first national television broadcast (the first actual broadcast was on closed-circuit in Maple Leaf Gardens in Spring 1952) in October of 1952. Today it is consistently among the highest rated programs in Canada.

Broadcasting rights and contracts

Broadcasting rights and contracts limit who can show footage of the event.

In the United Kingdom BSkyB based its early marketing largely on its acquisition of the broadcast rights of the top division of the English league football, which as part of the deal with the Football Association broke away from the Football League to become the FA Premier League. This prevented the footage of any major Premiership football game being shown on free-to-air television until much later that evening (as highlights), something the European Commission were very unhappy about. Following warnings of legal action to stop the monopoly, an announcement was made that an alternative structure would be in place when the current contracts end in 2007. []

In the United States, sports are broadcast by networks usually only in "game of the week" or championship situations, except for the NFL (see NFL on television). Other sports are broadcast by sports channels, and are limited by who can view them based on various rules set by the leagues themselves, resulting in blackouts. These limitations can be legally overlooked by purchasing out-of-market packages, such as MLB Extra Innings or NFL Sunday Ticket. Regular season games involving local teams (except the NFL) may also be viewed on those local stations or regional sports channels that have a contract to broadcast that team's games.

Protected events

In the UK, the regulations set out in the ITC Code on Sports and Other Listed Events dictate that some sporting events must have coverage made available to free-to-air channels. "Category A" events, including the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup, should be available live, while "Category B" events such as all test cricket played in England and the Commonwealth Games should be available as highlights or with a short delay.

Major sports broadcasts

The sporting event with the largest worldwide audience is the summer Olympics. Other events that have been described as "the most watched" per various definitions include the FIFA World Cup, Tour de France, Cricket World Cup, Super Bowl, and the FIA Formula 1 World Championship.

Broadcasters by country

United Kingdom

The British media is dominated by national outlets, with local media playing a much smaller role. Traditionally the BBC played a dominant role in televising sport, providing extensive high-quality advertisement free coverage and free publicity, in exchange for been granted broadcast rights for low fees. ITV broadcast a smaller portfolio of events, and Channel 4 broadcast a few events from the 1980s, mainly horse races and so-called minority sports. In the early 1990s this arrangement was shaken up by the arrival of pay-TV in the form of BSkyB. Their dedicated sports channels have since become the only place for some major sports to be seen. As of 2006 the Irish company Setanta Sports is emerging as a challenger to Sky Sports' dominance of the British pay-TV sports market. There is also a dedicated UK-version of Eurosport, called British Eurosport.

Radio sports coverage is also important. The BBC's Radio Five Live broadcasts almost all major sports events. It now has a commercial rival called talkSPORT, but this has not acquired anywhere near as many exclusive contracts as Sky Sports and dedicates much of its airtime to sports discussions and phone-ins. BBC Local Radio also provides extensive coverage of sport, giving more exposure to second-tier clubs which get limited national coverage.

United States

Sports are broadcast on networks NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX usually during the weekends, with sports channels like ESPN and FSN broadcasting during the week. General entertainment channels like TNT, TBS, and USA show certain events (major golf and tennis, dog shows) occasionally.

Dedicated sports channels

There are sports channels that show sporting events, sports news, and various sport-related programming.

In the United States

In the United States, the cable channel ESPN is by far the largest dedicated sports channel. It has spawned ESPN2, and the two networks broadcast a wide variety of sporting events, ranging from major sports playoffs to lumberjack contests and poker.

ESPN has even been the namesake of several children as documented in this [ BBC article]

Several regional sports channels offer lower-profile content. Examples include the many regional Fox Sports Networks.

CBS College Sports Network, ESPNU and Fox College Sports broadcast collegiate (university) sporting events with smaller audiences that have heretofore been largely absent from national television.

With the growing number of 'niche' channels on the U.S. television landscape, a swarm of channels have sprung up that focus heavily or exclusively on one sport:

*American Football: NFL Network
*Auto racing: SPEED
*Basketball: NBA TV
*Soccer: Setanta Sports North America (not exclusively devoted to soccer), Fox Soccer Channel and GolTV
*Golf: The Golf Channel
*Horse Racing: TVG Network
*Tennis: Tennis Channel
*Hockey: NHL Network
*Baseball: MLB Network

Some of the world's largest sports clubs have their own channels, or own shares in other sports networks. Examples include Yankees Entertainment and Sports and Manchester United TV. An example of the latter, the Boston Red Sox own a majority stake of the regional New England Sports Network which retains the New England area television broadcast rights for the majority of Red Sox games (except for the few which are carried nationally on Fox or ESPN and playoff games) and Madison Square Garden which has its own network, where they broadcast original shows, New York Rangers, New York Knicks, and high school basketball games.


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