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A Grandstand finish (Read 3553 times)
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A Grandstand finish
Apr 25th, 2006, 10:28am
This is taken from The Guardian:

Final whistle for BBC's Grandstand

Multichannel TV signals end for long-running show
Programme dating from 1958 seen as out of touch
by Owen Gibson and John Plunkett
Tuesday April 25, 2006

The famous theme tune for Grandstand, the Saturday afternoon institution that established the template for modern TV coverage of sport, is to fall silent after the BBC decided to phase out the show after almost half a century.

The BBC director general, Mark Thompson, will today announce that the programme and its Sunday companion are to be retired gradually over the next 18 months, although he will promise that BBC1 will continue to show sport on a Saturday afternoon and in total will show more than ever before.

Since first taking to the air in October 1958, Grandstand has taken armchair sports fans from Football Focus to Final Score and the tension of the results teleprinter via a litany of sports, from gymnastics to horse racing and boxing to golf. It also introduced them to famous hosts from David Coleman to Frank Bough and Des Lynam. But as the competition for viewers intensified in recent years, ratings came under increased pressure. While showpiece events such as Six Nations rugby union internationals, the Grand National and FA Cup football still draw big audiences, viewers increasingly tune in for individual sports rather than spending the entire afternoon with Grandstand.

"I'm sad about it in many ways because the programme stood the test of time for so long," said Lynam last night. "But with multichannel television, people will only really watch live events when they are big-time. The days of viewers sticking with the programme for five hours just because it was on are gone."

The BBC's director of sport, Roger Mosey, believes that fans of some lesser-watched sports are better catered for using new technology such as interactive spin-off channels and internet television.

The problem is not believed to be the paucity of sports rights that afflicted the programme during the 1990s as Sky attempted to wrest control of every big event from the BBC, but that viewers now see Grandstand as old-fashioned. After conducting extensive research, BBC executives believe that licence fee payers view the brand with nostalgia but no longer think it relevant. The BBC has experimented with dropping the name from established strands such as Football Focus and Final Score. Neither the latest Six Nations nor the Winter Olympics were included under the Grandstand umbrella.

The last big shakeup was in 2002, when the BBC revamped Sunday Grandstand, flirted disastrously with extreme sports, and introduced a spin-off show discussing the latest football scores to counter the popularity of cult Sky Sports hit Soccer Saturday.

The move will also give the BBC more freedom to show live sporting events in prime time. During last season's Six Nations, matches scheduled at teatime got much higher viewing figures than those screened during the afternoon. Likewise, Chelsea's FA Cup semi-final clash with Liverpool on Saturday peaked at 9.7 million viewers partly because it kicked off at 5.15pm.

Grandstand's first presenter was Peter Dimmock, then head of television outside broadcasts. After three weeks he was replaced permanently by the distinctive, excitable tones of David Coleman, who anchored the show for the next decade.

With rudimentary equipment, technicians faced a tough task to keep the series of live outside broadcasts and studio links on air. Throughout the Coleman era, the latest sports results were pasted on to a giant scoreboard using a tall ladder, and hand-painted racing results continued to be used until 1986.

Frank Bough took over as the main anchor in 1968 and stayed for 15 years, followed by Des Lynam for a decade from 1983 and then Steve Rider. Other instantly recognisable voices that became known through their association with particular sports on the programme included Peter O'Sullevan (horse racing), Dan Maskell (tennis), Harry Carpenter (boxing) and Murray Walker (motor racing).

Today's announcement will be part of a wider revamp for BBC Sport and the rest of the corporation's on-air and online output over five years. The project was instigated by Mr Thompson in 2004 as an attempt to "re-imagine drama, news, music, children's and other key genres from scratch". He sees it as the flipside to his plan to make thousands of redundancies to release 355m a year to spend on programmes and digital content.
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