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The Sports Channel
The sports channel logo 1990.jpg
Launched 27 March 1990
Closed 20 April 1991
(Renamed to Sky Sports), now known as Sky Sports 1
Owned by BSB (Later BSkyB)
Audience share N/A (Channel, closed)
Availability
At time of closure
Satellite
Analogue Marcopolo 1 11.93846
Cable
Available on some services

The Sports Channel was a British television channel. The first wholly-dedicated sports channel in the United Kingdom,[1] it was created by Champion TV and broadcast by British Satellite Broadcasting.

Contents

Foundation

Champion TV was founded by a group of television executives, including Tony Ball.[1] The channel broadcast live and recorded sporting action, sports news and interviews.

Operations

It opened at 6pm on 27 March 1990, although only cable viewers were able to watch the launch, as the service from BSB's Marcopolo satellite did not launch until 29 April 1990. The opening day's programming included live boxing from the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. The first football match covered by the channel was England v Brazil from Wembley on 28 March 1990. The channel's flagship programme was The Main Event, featuring live or recorded coverage of a major fixture or event in peak viewing time, every evening at 8pm.

The network principally focused on football. After the original team were bought out by BSB, in 1988, it had made an ambitious bid for live rights to the Football League, although their tender lost out in favour of one by ITV. BSB did acquire exclusive rights to England's matches at Wembley, as well as secondary live rights to the FA Cup. The Sports Channel was the first broadcaster to cover the first two rounds of the FA Cup live. It also transmitted the 1990 FA Charity Shield match between Liverpool and Manchester United, and featured regular live coverage of Scottish and Italian football.

The channel also featured golf, including The US Masters; tennis, including live coverage of the US Open and highlights from Wimbledon; and cricket, with live coverage of the Benson & Hedges Cup and highlights of England's home Tests and one-day internationals.

Many of the channel's rights packages, such as those for the FA Cup, Wimbledon and Test cricket, were acquired in tandem with the BBC.

Other sports featured on The Sports Channel included rugby league from Britain and Australia, motorcycling, darts, basketball and American football from the NFL.

On 20 April 1991 it was effectively rebranded as Sky Sports following BSB's merger with Sky Television plc.

Programmes

The Sports Channel had a regular news service, Sportsdesk, which provided sporting results and updates several times a day, typically at 1.25pm, 6pm, 7.30pm, 10.30pm and midnight. There was also Racing Today, a round-up of the day's horse racing at 1.30pm and 10pm. Tennis commentator Gerry Williams fronted an interview series, GW Talks To, in which he met leading sports figures.

Broadcasters

BSB's football presentation team included Martin Tyler, Andy Gray and Richard Keys, all of whom joined Sky Sports following BSB's amalgamation with Sky. The channel's Scottish football commentator was Jock Brown. BBC sport presenter and former tennis star Sue Barker began her British broadcasting career on the channel. Other BSB presenters included John Inverdale and Charles Colville. Sportsdesk's presenters included Jeff Stelling, Garry Richardson and Anna Walker. Head of Sport was initially Andrew Croker, with Vic Wakeling, who became head of Sky Sports eventually, the Head of the Sportsdesk newsroom. Sportsdesk's newsroom also included Alistair Waddington, now running Trans World International in the UK, Gabriel Clarke, now at ITV Sport, Peter Hutton, now at Taj TV in Dubai, Richard Mathews, now at Al Jazeera TV in Qatar as well as Sky Sports reporters/presenters such as Nick Collins, Graham Simmons, Gary Cotterill and Ian Condron. Events production were managed by Graham Fry, John Davis and Andy Melvin along with Neville Smith, Gary Norman and Mark Pearman were all founders of Sky Sports.

References

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