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Weekend TV Review: Sky vs BT - Whose Premier League Coverage Is Better?

Weekend TV Review: Sky vs BT - Whose Premier League Coverage Is Better?
By Gavin Cooney Updated

It was another big weekend in popular television show The Premier League.

Jose Mourinho is becoming less unction and more dysfunction; Arsene Wenger is philosophising as Pep Guardiola's takes on a personage of its own; Jurgen Klopp and Antonio Conte are bounding about with reckless interest and Tony Pulis is still a thing.

But as interesting as the clash between these characters is the rivalry between the broadcasters bringing them to us. So this week's column is going to pit them head-to-head: whose live Premier League coverage is better: Sky's or BT's?

We are basing this on live Premier League coverage at the weekend. BT have no direct for Monday Night Football. Nor, thankfully, do they have for Friday Night Football. 

Pundits 

In the Sky corner: Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher, Niall Quinn, Graeme Souness, Jamie Redknapp and Thierry Henry.

BT's is much larger, as they frequently blur the lines between co-commentator and pundit: Michael Owen, Steve McManaman, Glenn Hoddle, Owen Hargreaves, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand, Robbie Savage, and occasionally Ian Wright and 'Arry Redknapp.

Sky's are the best: Jamie Carragher's ability to be cutting and succinct has elevated him as the only pundit on this list better than Gary Neville. Graeme Souness profound disappointment with the world is always compelling to watch, and a necessary disenchantment compared to Quinn, who delivers analysis with the cautious sincerity of the person who knocks on your door asking you to subscribe to the Sacred Heart Messenger.

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Jamie Redknapp and Thierry Henry are slick, well-dressed but numbingly dull: like watching expensive wallpaper dry.

On BT, McManaman lends their coverage a certain level of theatre, as he speaks with a righteous indignation that makes the viewer feel he could start a fight at any moment.

Rio Ferdinand is probably BT's best, with Paul Scholes increasingly one-dimensional and disappointing in the world-weary role Souness nails for Sky. The loss of Louis Van Gaal has muted Scholes, although he may find his voice after yesterday's collapse at Stamford Bridge.

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Sky, however, seal an easy victory.

Winner: Sky 

Commentators 

Martin Tyler can make a legitimate claim to have been the voice of the Premier League, as irritating as his inconsistent intonation is: you're never quite sure when Tyler will suddenly roar into the mic. He has, however, delivered when it was needed most: giving the 2012 title race the iconic backing track it required.

Past Tyler, however, Sky are rather weak: Rob Hawthorne is ok, with Alan Parry difficult to listen to.

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On BT, Darren Fletcher has proved a revelation, with Ian Darke a better alternative to Sky's alternates.

Tyler edges it, though.

Winner: Sky

Co-commentators

Co-commentary is a difficult gig, perhaps the toughest overall. Co-commentators have to find something new/different/insightful to say about a major moment in a game without the luxury of the time and footage to think about it. Gary Neville is developing an annoying habit of fixating too much on a couple of different themes, obscuring other facts in the process. (The performance of Loris Karius against Man United is one example, with the fixation on Daley Blind's mistakes over Chris Smalling's performance against Chelsea another).

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He earns credit for at least trying to explain the game, however.

On BT, they've packed the commentary box with two co-commentators, making it doubly difficult for the men they employ.

Michael Owen has improved (from an admittedly low base), with the only man to be sacked by England for his views on the transmigration of souls - Glenn Hoddle - straying worrying lines between boring and bonkers. Conversely, Robbie Savage isn't as annoying as you think he would be.

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That said, BT occasionally pick Trevor Francis, which may be among the most ludicrous selections in television history. Francis mediates out loud on a game, pointing out the fact that things are happening with the quaint disaffection of your GAA-supporting dad, who only sits down to watch 'the soccer' when there isn't a game of hurling to watch.

Sky a winner, despite the best efforts of Savage.

Winner: Sky

Set design

BT have left their stupendous hangar behind them and taken the show on the road, beginning broadcasts on the touchline before ascending to a studio in the stand for half-time. Sky often do a small bit of pitch-side broadcast, but do so when the stadium is empty and spend much longer in the studio.

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BT prefer to sample the atmosphere a bit more, and as a result, get off the mark.

Winner: BT

Presenters 

As a presenter, if you're not going to facilitate the sparking of wild disagreements, then you're better to get out of the way.

Ever since Richard Keys shuffled off, cursing the "dark forces" of his abhorrent opinion of women, Sky have done a very good job in filling the presenter's chair with profoundly inoffensive men. Ed Chamberlain was very good at getting out of the way and allowing the punditry ensemble do their work, and his successors Simon Thomas and David Jones have done that likewise.

Perhaps it is a result of the weaker selection of pundits beside him, but Jake Humphrey seems to speak more than his Sky counterparts, but he spends much of this talking in agreement or engaging in b****r.

Winner: Sky 

Innovation

This season, Sky have tired their best to get their two strongest voices - Neville and Carragher - involved in their live coverage. They've done this reasonably well: Neville does co-commentary as Carragher sits alongside them in the gantry, with a little touch screen and time to analyse, interjecting four or five times a game.

BT's main innovation has been to give the microphone to two co-commentators along with Howard Webb, sequestered as he eternally is in BT's mysterious bunker. Oftentimes, this massive commentary team doesn't work, instead just a way of telling you nothing in different tones. The exception was this weekend's Old Firm coverage: Chris Sutton and Terry Butcher bounced off each other exceptionally well to brighten up an otherwise stultifying game. It's yet to work in the Premier League, however.

BT have also yet to call the video-links with Howard Webb the 'Webbcam', which is infuriating.

Winner: Sky

Camera angles 

Both pretty much use the same (including the awful new one at Anfield) but Sky do a better job in getting cameramen onto the pitch pre-game, roving around player's pre-game rituals, building anticipation.

Winner: Sky

On screen graphics 

BT still have the scoreboard in the bottom left-hand corner, something Sky experimented with in 2007 and binned pretty quickly. They rejected it for a reason.

Winner: Sky

Chemistry

The BT lads can have a laugh, but nothing will ever come close to the they-want-you-to-think-it's-reluctant-but-it-is-actually-pure Carragher/Neville bromance.

Winner: Sky 

Ads 

In-game ads are almost exclusively for betting sites nowadays, although BT do have an odd love of Jacamo. That said, BT keep the game on a quarter of the screen when they cut for the money-spinning pre-game kick-off ad. Sky cut from the action altogether, and have also snuck in another set of ads at half-time.

Winner: BT

Guff-o-meter 

The SkyPad is usually reserved for Sky's studio offerings, although they occasionally take it on the road While Carragher and Neville have mastered it on MNF, the real pleasure in these things is watching presenters fumble and fail to use it. Sadly, everyone at Sky is too well trained in these technological ways for this to happen.

BT don't persist with such trappings anymore, so they earn a point for that.

Winner: BT

Pointless plugging of other programmes 

BT spend much of their in-game coverage forward selling to games, but there is often such a scarcity you feel sorry for them flogging a Watford/Everton game three weeks into the future.

Sky's use of the Premier League as marketing has been nakedly displayed for some time: yesterday's Super Sunday featured a video link-up with some lad at Formula 1, and they've been plugging films and TV shows on Sky Atlantic for too long now. Attempts to link the two afterwards is increasingly difficult to listen to: Ray Donovan and Swansea City have very little in common, and it should be left like that.

Winner: BT

Self-fellating 

In terms of feeding the hype machine, we can't separate them.

Winner: Draw
Result: Sky 8 - 4

A comfortable win for Sky, mainly down to personalities Tyler, Neville and Carragher.

WebbCam - Happy Update

Good news, folks. We had been worried that Howard Webb was being held hostage in BT's bunker, such was the frequency of his appearances along with his increasingly rugged look. He has escaped, and has been sauntering around town promoting his book. Here he is on Talksport, where he dispelled the notion that he is Alex Ferguson's love-child.

Jose Mourinh-NOOOO

Heavens above. To celebrate/market Mourinho's return to Stamford Bridge, Sky Sports News commissioned a song. Here it is, sung acapella by the fans who spend Thursday afternoons hanging out by football stadiums. Best of luck making it to the end.

See Also: Further Details Emerge Of Just How Crazy Jose Mourinho Went At Chelsea Last Season

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