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Five dropping all U.S. Sport?

by Matt Smith

Christmas is traditionally a time of joy, followed by the dawning of a New Year full of hope.  Sadly for British baseball fans, hope and joy will feel a long way off today with the news that Five are reportedly dropping all coverage of U.S. Sport. 

The news first broke on the NFLUK.com forum, apparently coming directly from NFL (and sometimes MLB) presenter Mike Carlson.

“Five have decided to drop their late-night American sports studio shows. This means that the last three regular season games with be our last ones. The NHL has already been cancelled, NBA will finish their season, and MLB will not resume next season.

It is a cost-cutting measure, so if a way were to be found to pay the costs of studio production, these shows could return, but that’s a long-shot at present.

I’ll be doing the Super Bowl for the BBC, of course.

You could voice your disappointment to Dawn Airey and Robert Charles at Channel Five. They were supportive of the shows in principle, but couldnt justify the expense during a retrenching”.

Picked up by the MLBUK Supporters Forum, the news has gained credence from the reliable poster Scottish Yankee who claims to have had it confirmed by a source at Five.

No official confirmation has been announced by Five as yet, although this may come in the NFL game being broadcast tonight.  If it does, it will truly be a sad day for fans of all U.S. sports in this country.

While I have occasionally watched the NFL and NHL coverage over the years, it is the baseball coverage that I have been a regular viewer of since 1998.  Quite simply, I would not be a baseball fan today were it not for Five.  The team have consistently put together brilliant shows that allow newcomers and established fans to enjoy the game in equal measure: a trick far from easy to pull off.

Jonny Gould’s enthusiasm is as infectious as it is entertaining and while some may groan at his regular mentions of his fantasy team, his passion for the game always shines through.  He asks the questions that would spring to mind to a relative newcomer and his appreciation of the e-mails sent in by the viewers has helped to foster a baseball community in Britain.

Of course Jonny has been very ably assisted by several co-hosts over the years, not least the current presenter Josh Chetwynd.  Josh’s analysis has greatly increased many a fan’s understanding of the intricacies of the game, something that has been invaluable to those of us who have never really played it.  As revealed in the enlightening interview published here at BaseballGB earlier in the week, Josh has also dedicated a considerable amount of his time and energy into furthering the baseball cause in Great Britain, far beyond his work covering MLB on Five. 

You cannot help but feel incredibly sorry for the whole team on Five who have possibly seen their years of hard work come to an end through no fault of their own.  Were these decisions based purely on the quality of the shows in question, there would be no doubt that MLB on Five and the other U.S. sports shows would continue.  Sadly, many other factors will also play a part in the decision and it appears as though they have spelled the end to what has become a beloved institution to baseball devotees in Britain.

If so, it will have significant ramifications for baseball in this country.  Some posters on the NFLUK forum have latched on to the wording of Mike’s message which states that the “studio shows” have been dropped, leading to the possibility that Five may show the game footage without any British links.  Although better than nothing, such an approach would greatly reduce the enjoyment of the shows and their ability to turn inquisitive Brits into diehard baseball fans.

A more in-depth look at the future of TV coverage of baseball in Britain will be published here tomorrow.  However, it’s clear that any scenario which doesn’t include the current Five team will leave a big hole in the coverage of the sport in this country.

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Joe Gray December 21, 2008 - 2:12 pm

A rather nice review of the show appeared recently here. Unfortunately, the joke in the title would not be very funny at all if this news is indeed a signal of the end of this cult show.

Joe Gray December 21, 2008 - 9:52 pm

I know this is repeating what you covered in the post, but it bears repetition… This news is not good at all for baseball in this country. And even if they were to just show the game without the studio work then it will not attract nearly as many new fans.

Like you, I wouldn’t be into baseball the way I am now if it wasn’t for that show (and being able to write off Monday and Thursday mornings as a student). Let’s hope that whoever controls the budget can be made to see the real value of the show. Or that someone on another channel can be smart enough to pick up a programme that has one of the most stormproof fanbases in the UK (I don’t think I am exaggerating here).

Matt Smith December 21, 2008 - 10:32 pm

There definitely is a loyal fanbase out there and hopefully that will count for something. I’m sure all British baseball fans will be happy to play a part in helping baseball find a new TV home if they can.

Aspi Dimitrov December 22, 2008 - 12:50 am

Matt and Joe, thak you for alerting us about this negative development. Channel Five’s show with our beloved Jonny, Josh, Eric and everyone behind the scenes has played a key role in promoting baseball in this country and has brought endless hours of enjoyment to fans of the game.

A large proportion of the new players who contact our club (Herts) with interest in playing the game, decid to do so after watching Channel Five’s Show.

Please keep us informed if you find any new information about TV coverage of MLB in the UK in 2009 and beyond.

I am sure that the British Baseball community will prove to be a powerful group and that together we will be able to keep the Show going strong on Five or at least find it a new home.

Mark George December 22, 2008 - 9:38 am

This is awful news for UK baseball fans.
I’ve worked on the show in the past and know how much work goes into each broadcast and how dedicated the production team are.

A petition has been set up online, which you can sign here:


Please do the right thing and sign – and pass this on to any other baseball fans you know!

Joe Cooter December 22, 2008 - 10:16 am

Living in America, I am not all that familair with how British Television works, outside of the BBC and Skysports which I occassionally get on Fox Soccer Channel. I do have one question, did sky pay for people to actually call the game in addition to studio hosts?

Why do I smell an oppertunity for Rupert Murdoch to save the day? Why do I get the feel that Sky will some how manage to start similcasting Fox’s game of the week. This is a move that would make sense finacially since they wouldn’t have to pay all that much for the rights. They already Sky Sports News already promotes Monday Night Football, which it broadcasts even though that Portion of the NFL broadcasting package isn’t owned By Fox here in the States.

Simon Hibberd December 24, 2008 - 8:50 pm

Hey, if there’s a petition or anything that will keep free baseball on our televisions, sign me up. Channel 5 baseball is the reason I’m a baseball fan at all.. I’ve watched it faithfully since 1999 and am very saddened by this news…just as baseball was starting to get noticed in this country, it gets dropped.. I just hope Sky don’t get their hands on it else we’re all screwed.

Sports Star Pro Mary July 1, 2010 - 8:13 am

Maybe, there are still issues that these 5 leagues are not telling us yet. This indeed a sad news, but we may not know, tomorrow will be better for all of us, fans of NFL.


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