The Football League is set to transform the viewing experience for fans of its clubs following the signing of two ground-breaking broadcasting agreements with Channel 5 and ITN Productions and the expansion of a fibre-optic network linking its 72 clubs.
For the first time ever, highlights of Sky Bet Football League matches will be shown in a prime time Saturday night slot from the beginning of next season, after the League signed a new three-year agreement for its free-to-air highlights with Channel 5. Match footage, including every single goal, from matches in all three divisions of the Sky Bet Football League will be broadcast in a new 90 minute show aired at 9.00pm every week. Channel 5 will also broadcast highlights of the Capital One Cup and Johnstone's Paint Trophy.
The Football League's Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey, said: "This is an exceptional opportunity for The Football League to work with a broadcaster that will schedule our matches in a prime time slot. It will take our games to a wider, younger audience by giving us the chance to be first in front of fans on a Saturday night."
David Lynn, President of Channel 5's parent company, Viacom International Media Networks UK said: "We are extremely happy to be welcoming back top quality football to such a prominent slot on Channel 5. The Football League is one of the toughest and most attractive club competitions in world football and we're convinced this highlights package will prove highly popular with a mainstream audience at the heart of our Saturday evening schedule."
Channel 5 is in the process of tendering the contract to produce its highlights show and will announce its preferred programme production partner in due course.
Match footage will be filmed, edited and delivered by the League's new production partner ITN Productions. As part of a multi-million pound three-year contract, ITN Productions will cover the Sky Bet Championship, Sky Bet League 1, Sky Bet League 2, Capital One Cup and Johnstone's Paint Trophy matches - a total of 1,813 games per season across Football League and Premier League grounds. ITN Productions will also produce digital clips and highlights content of The Football League's competitions for use by domestic broadcasters (Sky Sports & Channel 5), international broadcasters (through Pitch International) and clubs (through their online Player service), as well as clips of Premier League matches for top flight clubs that are part of the League's FLi network of club websites.
Mark Browning, MD of ITN Productions, said: "This is a transformative moment for ITN Productions and ITN. We are already a key player in UK sports production and now every goal in the Sky Bet Football League, Capital One Cup and Johnstone's Paint Trophy will be produced by ITN Productions. This is the result of our continued investment in production excellence and fast-turnaround publishing capability along with a world class team."
The opportunity to broadcast Football League highlights at 9.00pm on a Saturday night has been made possible by the installation of ADI's high speed Live Venue fibre-optic network that delivers real-time HD match footage to ADI's Sports Hub operations centre in Preston. All Championship clubs are currently connected to the network with League 1 and League 2 clubs going live by the summer.
The Football League's Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey said: "The expansion of the fibre-optic network across our clubs represents a significant multi-million pound investment by The Football League into our future broadcasting content strategy. It will deliver new opportunities for supporters to view matches across a range of platforms."
Geraint Williams, CEO of ADI said "Connecting every stadium to the Live Venue fibre network has been a massive undertaking, but one that will deliver huge value for the viewing audience. One of ADI's key strengths as a fully independent technical service provider is that we offer a completely rights-agnostic network platform and we are proud to be playing such a pivotal role in transforming the way in which Football League match content is televised. As we continue to develop the services available via Live Venue, we're incredibly excited about the value we can deliver to all parties involved."