Screensport (TV channel)
|Launched||29 March 1984|
|Closed||1 March 1993|
Screensport was founded in 1981 by Bob Kennedy — who had started up BBC Radio Leicester, Satellite Television Ltd (operators of the UK's first satellite television channel, which became Sky Channel, and is today known as Sky One) and several independent commercial radio stations, backers included the American networks ABC and ESPN. A programming deal with Trans World International allowed access to events taking place around the world.
The channel began broadcasting on 29 March 1984. Media Communications controlled the studios and transmission facilities in Knutsford, Cheshire, while its administration office was based in London. Apart from American sports, the station aired regular and weekly British sports including British speedway and stock cars. Screensport aired only recorded programming until 31 August 1984, when they showed live greyhound racing from Wembley Stadium – including the St Leger.
By late 1984, WHSmith Television Group had purchased a 15% stake in the company. RCA also acquired a 10% share in the business. Other investors included Ladbrokes and the pension fund of the National Coal Board. Former BBC executive Aubrey Singer was a prominent board member.
On 28 August 1985, the station started to expand its broadcasting area to include the Netherlands and Sweden, introducing new programmes and sports including ice speedway, Dutch ice hockey and motor sport. Coverage of English football began in the same year, screening the Area and National finals from the Freight Rover Trophy, a competition for lower division clubs.
In addition, the channel both sponsored and broadcast the Football League Super Cup in the 1985-86 season. The competition was designed to compensate clubs who were banned from European competition due to the Heysel Stadium disaster, but it was scrapped after the first edition.
The WHSmith Television Group took over the operation and management of the network when ABC and Bob Kennedy pulled out in January 1986. By the end of 1986, the station had lost £700,000, and no longer broadcast in Sweden, which resulted in a loss of 100,000 customers.
The channel had acquired rights to cover some major events. On 9 April 1987, Screensport broadcast live coverage of the US Masters golf from Augusta, and many other PGA Tour events. Grand Slam tennis was also covered in the shape of the US Open. NHL ice hockey, NBA and NASCAR racing were common items on the schedule during this period.
During the 1987-88 football season, Screensport was the only source of weekly extended English Football League highlights for the United Kingdom viewers. The channel signed a deal with Thames Television, who were the Football League's agent for international distribution, to transmit 34 recorded matches via cable and satellite. Thames produced its programme, called the Big League Soccer.
On 7 December 1988, ESPN increased its stake in the channel from 3.5% to 25.5% after purchasing shares from WHSmith for £4.4 million. By then, Screensport had increased its sports content, allowing the channel to broadcast for 18.5 hours each day. The schedule included ice hockey, skiing, golf, tennis, and yachting. By 1989, Screensport adopted the sub-title The European Sports Network, while the WHSmith Television Group later renamed itself WHSTV.
The channel also began broadcasting on the Astra 1A satellite in February 1989, following a move of its operations from the north of England to central London, after taking full control of Molinare on 17 May 1989, which helped Screensport to operate as one channel under four different names: Screensport (English), TV Sport (French), Sportkanal (German), and Sportnet (Dutch).
On 28 February 1992, Screensport forged an alliance with ITV Sport to bid for rights to coverage of the newly formed English Premier League. Sky Sports and the BBC were the eventual winners of the contract.
On 14 January 1993, Eurosport and Screensport proposed a merger to provide a single channel, as both channels were operating at a loss. The hope was that a merged channel would become financially profitable. The merger finally took place on 1 March 1993; that same day, Screensport was shut down for good. Five days later, the channel's transponder space on the Astra satellite service would be filled by RTL Zwei.
In 1987, Screensport filed with the Commission of the European Communities, alleging that the joint purchasing scheme for sporting events by Eurosport's former owners, Sky Television plc and the European Broadcasting Union, violated the competition (antitrust) law rules of the Treaty of Rome.[dubious ] After provisions were made for non-member access to the programming, the Commission granted the EBU in a five-year conditional exemption from the requirements of the competition rules.
- "Commission Decision of 19 February 1991 relating to a proceeding pursuant to Article 85 of the EEC Treaty (IV/32.524 - Screensport/EBU members)". Eur-lex.europa.eu. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
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- Screen International, 26 May 1984, Issue 447, p. 23
- Variety, 28 August 1985, Vol. 320, p. 67
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- "Stake raised". The Times, 7 December 1988; p. 27
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- "Screensport part of ITV deal", The Guardian, Martin Thorpe, 28 February 1992, p. 18
- "Screensport teams up with ITV", Broadcast, 6 March 1992, p. 1
- "Satellite channels to merge". The Times 14 January 1993; p. 40
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- From Satellite to Single Market: New Communication Technology and European ... Richard Collins, ISBN 0-203-98424-2.
- "Screensport issues writ over TV pact". Melinda Wittstock. The Times 15 May 1991; p. 22